Capitol Views: Lawmakers balk at governor’s budget proposal

The House Appropriations Committee rejected legislation today that contained key parts of Gov. John Bel Edwards’ plan for rebalancing the current fiscal year budget, which has a $304 million deficit. House Bill 1 by Speaker Pro Tem Walt Leger, D-New Orleans, would have reconfigured spending and cut certain areas of state government.

While it signals a tough road of negotiations ahead for the governor’s team, it doesn’t altogether doom Edwards’ plans for the ongoing special session that adjourns on Wednesday. If representatives ultimately want to use the administration’s proposal it can be amended into one of the two supplemental appropriations bills the committee has advanced to the House floor.

Those two bills—HB 3 by Appropriations Chairman Cameron Henry, R-Metairie, and HB 8 by Rep. Rick Edmonds, R-Baton Rouge—currently offer up deeper cuts than the governor prefers. The bills also reduce spending in areas Edwards is seeking to protect, like education and corrections.

In other committee action today, House Republicans appear to have settled on a $74.6 million withdrawal from the state’s special savings account. House Concurrent Resolution 2 by Rep. Jack McFarland is now the official GOP vehicle for tapping into the Rainy Day Fund, which the governor has asked lawmakers to pull $119 million from.

Another bill heading to the House floor is HCR 1 by Speaker Taylor Barras, R-New Iberia, which would redirect 3% of fees and certain dedicated monies to erase state debt to the tune of $74 million in the first year of implementation. Some lawmakers voiced concern over the idea of siphoning money away from things like roads and higher education, and Commissioner of Administration Jay Dardenne said it would a procedural “nightmare.”

A similar bill made it through the House last year, only to be torpedoed in the Senate, where Edwards enjoys a more favorable audience. “This is an especially precarious time to be taking money from TOPS and the Transportation Trust Fund, as this proposal does, given that our state faces a massive infrastructure backlog,” the governor said in a statement this afternoon.

—Jeremy Alford

Jeremy Alford will publish a daily update throughout the Legislature’s special session on Daily Report PM. Alford reports on Louisiana politics at LaPolitics.com. Follow him on Twitter or on Facebook. He can be reached at JJA@LaPolitics.com.

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