‘LaPolitics’: Budget hearings underway amid ‘rosier’ outlook

The Legislature’s chief money committees both started their budget hearings this week. Republican members of the Senate Finance Committee and the House Appropriations Committee voiced the same concerns in their opening hearings—that the unprecedented influx of federal stimulus money could falsely inflate the state budget. What, exactly, conservative lawmakers intend to do about that, aside from assigning one-time dollars to one-time expenses, is unknown. We do know, however, that lawmakers may have more money coming in than they originally thought. During his monthly call-in radio show last week, Gov. John Bel Edwards suggested that the state’s short-term fiscal outlook could go from rosy to rosier. When the Revenue Estimating Conference meets next in May, Edwards says economists will likely propose an improved forecast. The REC is charged with identifying how much money the state can spend each fiscal year.

—If you fancy yourself as a student of Louisiana history or claim to be a political junkie in this state, then you need to attend an induction ceremony for the Louisiana Political Museum and Hall of Fame, which is located in Winnfield. Usually by this time of year, we would already know the names of the inductees and, in fact, the induction ceremony would have already happened. Blame it on COVID-19, which has derailed everything from Washington Mardi Gras to this year’s special session for redistricting. “Right now we’re looking at having it some time in June in Shreveport,” says museum director Carolyn Phillips. “We want to make sure we can have a full house, and that extra time will help.” For a long time the induction ceremony was held exclusively in Winnfield, but the museum’s board members have turned it into a traveling roadshow in more recent years. This year’s ceremony will honor late lobbyist Ted Jones and a $1 million capital campaign is being launched in his honor to expand the museum’s offerings. While the names of this year’s inductees haven’t been released publicly, this will be the first year that a group, aside from a family, is presented with a special award. That group will be the storied “Young Turks,” a pack of legislators who transformed the culture of politics at the Capitol during the early 1970s and beyond. The annual family award will be presented to the Jackson Family (Alphonse and Lydia) and the “Friends of the Louisiana Congressional Delegation” award will go to late journalist and former Hill staffer Lou Gehrig Burnett.

They said it: “You put the fear of God in our mayors when they know you’re going to be in city hall.”—Senate President Pro Tem Beth Mizell, explaining one of the roles of the legislative auditor’s office, during a committee meeting this week. 

Jeremy Alford publishes LaPolitics Weekly, a newsletter on Louisiana politics, at LaPolitics.com. Follow him on Twitter, or on Facebook. He can be reached at JJA@LaPolitics.com.