“The more we fund this year, the bigger the fiscal cliff is going to be next year. And we can’t sustain more taxes. It’s irresponsible!”
Representative Valarie Hodges (R-Denham Springs) summed up the thinking of a majority of House Appropriations committee members, as special session budget hearings began where the regular session left off – with a bill that doesn’t spend all the estimated revenue.
Commissioner of Administration Jay Dardenne warned the committee that unspent money cannot be used if there’s a mid-year shortfall.
“If the money is not appropriated, the money cannot be spent, unless you’re back in a legislative session,” Dardenne advised.
But Appropriations chair Cameron Henry wanted a second opinion.
“Is there any mechanism where we could appropriate the money?” he asked.
“Outside of session? No, sir.” Office of Planning and Budget Director Barry Dusse’ responded.
While seven representatives on the 25-member committee voted for considering the Senate plan at the end of last week’s regular session, the majority of Appropriations members appear to be sticking with the “don’t spend it all” scenario, like Winnsboro Representative Steve Pylant.
“Government is like a fire – the more you feed it, the bigger it gets,” Pylant said. “When are we going to realize that you got to make cuts in some areas? You got to learn to live within your means.”
“If you don’t want to fund the budget, tell us what programs you don’t want to have, what services you don’t want to provide,” Assistant Commissioner of Administration Barbara Goodson fired back.
“It’s not my job to cut, ma’am. That’s your job to cut,” Pylant insisted.
“You set programs and you set them into law, and so if you want a program cut, you need to say it,” she pressed. “Not funding them as much as you can on the front end means you’re impacting their operation from day one. And maybe that’s your point, is to keep the agencies from being able to operate through the year. I don’t know.”
Throughout the course of taking testimony from state agencies Monday, several committee members – including Chairman Henry and House GOP Caucus leader Lance Harris – made it clear that the spending reductions they want to impose on the upcoming budget are merely a prelude for how they plan to deal with the next year’s more than $1-billion fiscal cliff.
House Appropriations takes public testimony on their budget plan today.