The only member of Louisiana’s House delegation who voted with President Barack Obama’s proposed stimulus package Wednesday was Rep. Charlie Melancon of Napoleonville. That split mirrored the larger divide in the House, where Republicans stood unanimously against the spending plan in a party line 244-188 vote.
Melancon, the only Democrat in the state House delegation, says the investments in education, health care, transportation and economic development offered by the legislation were too good to pass up. “With our economy in freefall and millions of Americans losing their jobs, doing nothing is not an option,” Melancon said. “We must act now to turn our economy around, or we will slip even deeper into recession.
Back home, Obama’s stimulus could offer a cushion for state government, which is facing a $2 billion shortfall for the next fiscal year that begins on July 1. In response, agencies are being asked to absorb massive cuts and this year’s regular legislative session is expected to offer high drama. Based on a breakdown prepared by Melancon’s office, the legislation would make $945 million available to the state’s general fund over the next two years. “Just as we did with the mid-year budget cuts (from the current fiscal year), we will seek greater budget flexibility by reviewing all means of state government financing, including the use of statutory dedications,” says Michael DiResto of the Division of Administration, adding other factors such as oil prices will play a key role, too. For a longer version of this story, click here.—Jeremy Alford