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Louisiana House begins budget discussion

Thursday, May 10, 2012 - 5:21pm

BATON ROUGE, La (FOX44) — It’s a critical day for the Louisiana House as lawmakers try to vote on how billions of dollars will be spent to keep the state running.

The budget bill is always controversial and this year is no different. The House Appropriations Committee has been working on it for months, starting agency and community member testimonies as early as March 6th. Their goal is to fund state agencies and programs as best they can while still providing a constitutionally balanced budget.

The big issue this year with the nearly $26 billion budget is the use of one-time money included within the proposal. Its money that comes out of the state treasury and can only be used once as a temporary way to keep from cutting cash out of state programs and agencies.

However, conservative lawmakers are against that plan, so much that they voted it down earlier Thursday, forcing the House to break for five hours will the Appropriations Committee worked to get the votes and make amendments.

House Bill 1 decides the spending plan for every state program and agency starting July 1st.

“House Bill one probably doesn’t make anyone in this state happy or satisfied,” says bill author and Appropriations chairman, Jim Fannin. “There are reductions in House Bill one to every agency except one.”

With a $219 million deficit left over from this year, it’s a job lawmakers don’t take lightly. “You are faced with a decision today,” Fannin said to lawmakers. “This bill has some one-time money in it, but members you need to know what that money does to your district if it’s not there.”

The proposed budget currently includes about $269 million in one-time money, mainly to handle ongoing programs and services to the state.

“I can tell you, I’ve had emergencies in my life where I’ve had to go into that bank account and get a little money out to get me through until better times,” Fannin says, trying to provide an example of how one-time money works.

However, some lawmakers say, that’s just not the answer.

“Aren’t we creating an expectation in those [state] departments, units, everybody else that they’re going to have that money and then when the money’s not there, they have to make drastic cuts at the end of the year?” asks Representative Anthony Ligi. “Wouldn’t it just be better to be honest with ourselves and take that one time money out of the budget at the beginning of the year?”

Other lawmakers say they’d rather make cuts than rely on emergency money.

“I think there are things that we can address without going after the truly needed areas of our state budget,” says Rep. Joe Harrison.

Lawmakers all say they’re just trying to do what they believe is best for Louisiana.

“Long as I’m here in this position, or not in this position and still here, I’ll be fighting to manage the finances of this state,” says Fannin.
 

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