The House Appropriations Committee met at the Capitol Tuesday to begin discussing the Governor's proposal for next fiscal year's budget.
“Because of the limitations on dollars available from the Revenue Estimating Conference," explained Commissioner of Administration Jay Dardenne, "we’re not able to show you a budget that does everything the Governor feels it ought to do.”
The budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1 is "based upon the Revenue Estimating Conference forecast. We’re required of course to have a balanced budget; can only appropriate and spend that which has been recognized by the REC,” said Dardenne.
The REC forecasts the state will have about $12 billion to spend in the next budget. That's $440 million less than what's needed to continue all current programs. Some Legislators, like Representative Rick Edmonds, don’t trust REC’s numbers.
"We’re always missing this REC number and all of us have great concern about this," he explained, noting the years of budget shortfalls the state has faced.
Chairman Cameron Henry said some in the Legislature are interested in spending less than the full amount recognized by the REC.
“If we were to only budget 98% and if REC’s numbers were off and we only generated 98%, we would just be accurate, correct?” he asked.
Dardenne said 'yes,' and that the Governor supports the plan as well. Though Dardenne suggested that due to the $440 million shortfall, now may not be the best time to practice that.
“That ought to be a short term and long term objective from a budgeting standpoint. I think the Governor thinks it’s a great idea and I think it would be a responsible thing to do,” he said.
But ultimately the Legislature is responsible for appropriating funds. And Dardenne says it’s never been the will of the Legislature to spend less than the full amount available.
“Your job is now to respond to what the REC tells us is available. This is our suggestion on how we spend the money. You get to decide actually how it will be spent,” urged Dardenne.
The Legislature will begin making those suggestions April 10th, when the regular session gets underway.