Just A Little Off The Top

Feb 16, 2017

After passing two budget cutting bills on to the House floor Wednesday, the House Appropriations Committee spent much of its meeting time today arguing a measure that was shot down in the Senate last year.

“Had we pulled the trigger on this last year, we would be $74,558,000 to the good, that we would not be looking for today,” House Speaker Taylor Barras said of his resolution.

It requires the state Treasurer to deposit all revenues into the Bond Security and Redemption Fund first, then pay the state debt out of that. Afterward, the remainder is forwarded to the State

“We believe that the statutory dedications have an obligation to a portion of our state debt,” Barras stated.

“Allowing almost everybody to pay a piece of the pie?” Baton Rouge Representative Pat Smith asked rhetorically.

“Yeah, broadening the base, so to speak. Yeah,” responded Barras.

Alexandria Representative Lance Harris asked,“July the first – that’s when this would start happening. Am I correct in that?”

“Well, yeah,” the Speaker replied.

That brought Commissioner of Administration Jay Dardenne to the table, to express his reservations with the measure.

“This resolution is only effective beginning with the next fiscal year, so it’s not addressing the shortfalls that we’re trying to address in this session,” Dardenne said. “It does raise a question as to whether it’s within the scope of the call.”

Dardenne also advised the maneuver would be complicated procedurally, which could further depress Louisiana’s bond rating.

And, he said, “The substance of what you would be doing is voting to cut.”

The measure would draw 3-percent off the top of stat ded funds.

“If it’s passed, we could backfill,” Appropriations chair Cameron Henry said, adding, “Or maybe you didn’t hear the Speaker say that.”

“I heard it, all right,” Dardenne responded, testily. “But to backfill means you gotta go find the money, so you’ve gotta take it from somebody else to do the backfill.”

Bottom line, he said?  “If you want to cut statutory dedications, cut statutory dedications! Do away with all of them!”

The measure passed and is headed to the House floor.

The governor has issued a statement calling the measure a “dangerous back-door gimmick that has the potential to seriously threaten the state’s credit rating.”