Surplus? So Tempting On A Fiscal Diet

Sep 25, 2017

Have you ever been on a strict diet, counting every calorie, journaling every bite you take? For lawmakers, the state budget process has been like that for quite some time.

But now legislators are being told: “The confidence that we are going to end last year in a surplus is there.”

And like the dessert counter at the local buffet, the potential of a surplus has diet-weary legislators drooling.

At the Joint Budget Committee meeting Friday, Senator Norby Chabert asked, “If there is a surplus, what can that money legally be used for?”

“The Constitution allows use of those funds only for the UAL, Budget Stabilization Fund, debt service, capital outlay and coastal,” Barry Dusse’, Director of the Office of Planning and Budget, replied.

“But some portions of that are automatic, right?” Joint Budget chair Eric LaFleur  then asked. “The portion that goes to UAL and the portion that goes to Rainy Day?”

“Yes, thank you, Mr. Chairman,” Dusse’ responded. “Yes, of the surplus amount, 25-percent does have to go to the Budget Stabilization Fund and 10-percent has to go towards the UAL.”

Senator Sharon Hewitt wanted to know: “How will that decision get made, in terms of what we do with that money?”

“The disposition, the spending, or the transfer of those funds will be in bills,” Dusse’ said.

“Okay,” Hewitt, said with a sigh. “In the spring session?”

“In the spring session,” Dusse’ affirmed.

Representative Gary Carter was clearly disappointed with that answer.

“So the only way we can deal with that is during the next spring session?” he asked. “So there’s nothing we can do between now and then?”

“No, sir.”

In other words, no dessert anytime soon.