Geymann Is The Fiscal Bird Dog Of Louisiana’s Legislature

Your tax money is in good hands with state Rep. Brett Geymann. The young legislator from the conservative community of Moss Bluff, north of Lake Charles, has come into his own.

When his colleagues attached his name to one of his successful measures, you knew Geymann was making his mark among the 105 members of the House of Representatives.

The Geymann Rule is actually a simple piece of legislation. It says a twothirds vote is required in the House any time the governor or anyone else wants to spend one-time money to pay for costs that are going to come around year in and year out.

Unfortunately, the rule came at a bad time for Gov. Bobby Jindal. His proposed $25 billion budget that was sent to the House called for the use almost $450 million in one-time money to pay recurring expenses.

The Times-Picayune of New Orleans said before the rule was adopted that it “has the administration in an uproar.”

Vote was impressive

The rule was approved 60-42. And the first time the Geymann Rule came into play, the vote against using one-time money was 88-11. That’s a bold statement by those 88 House members.

The rejection meant something had to be cut from the budget, and those reductions panicked members of the Jindal administration. The state Senate is trying to help them recover.

Rep. Eric Ponti, R-Baton Rouge, had a proposed rule that would undo the Geymann legislation, but he pulled it back from consideration when it came before a House committee. Obviously, the odds of getting it approved weren’t good.

Geymann tried to strike another blow for sound spending again this week. However, his bill designed to put a realistic cap on state expenditures is rather complicated. That is probably why the House Appropriations Committee turned it down with a 13-11 vote.

Don’t think he’s given up, though. Geymann is coming back with a resolution that reduces the current state spending limit of $14.9 billion to $11.8 billion. That is only state money, and the proposed $24.9 billion budget contains billions of federal dollars.

The state doesn’t have $14.9 billion in revenues to spend, but Geymann wants to be sure it wouldn’t spend that much if it did.

State salaries that are out of line are also being targeted by Geymann. He got 86-2 House approval for a bill to require legislative approval of the salaries of many of the state’s highest-paid employees. There are exceptions, but the legislation says future hires to which the legislation would apply can’t make more than 120 percent of the governor’s salary.

Gov. Jindal receives $130,000 annually, so that limits many highly paid employees to making no more than $156,000. The bill still needs approval from the Senate.

Many of you reading this might ask, “What’s the deal with Geymann, anyway?”

Well, it’s probably his upbringing and his lifestyle. He grew up in south Lake Charles, but his family moved to Beauregard Parish, where he finished high school.

Although he was born in the city, he’s always been pretty much a plain old country boy. He works hard for a living and is a good family man. He has a job in his dad’s company, but he and his wife also run their own business.

Those of us who grew up in the Depression years know what that’s like. Nothing comes easy, but you become a better person because of the struggles. And you gain a greater appreciation for those hard-earned dollars.

Geymann learned about state finances from a couple of old pros, both of whom happen to be named Jim. He is a member of “Gentleman Jim” Fannin’s House Appropriations Committee. Rep. Fannin, a Democrat, is a farmer from Jonesboro who can identify with people like Geymann.

Then there’s Rep. Jim Morris, a Republican legislator from Oil City in Caddo Parish. He’s done well in the oil industry, and he and Geymann are seatmates in the House. Both served on the state’s Commission on Streamlining Government, and it gave them an inside look at what it takes to make changes.

Morris has become Geymann’s ally in his pursuit of more responsible state government. And he’s the kind of guy who wouldn’t hesitate to encourage his colleague to be a bold thinker and doer.

Keeping things simple

None of the three men gets taken in by the trappings of the public life that are enjoyed by some of their colleagues. There is nothing wrong with that. It’s just not their thing. They are mostly hamburger, seafood, cafeteria and Mexican food buffs who partake in simple pleasures.

Geymann is ending his second fouryear term, and I have watched him grow in the legislative process. One of his colleagues told me this week you can tell he’s matured because of his emerging gray hair.

Although he is a good Republican, he doesn’t always toe the party line. And other influences don’t change his firm convictions.

I have asked Geymann on occasion why he voted a certain way, and I usually get the same answer: “I prayed about it, and I believe it’s the right thing to do.”

How can you argue with that approach to life?

Unless a challenger comes along at the last minute, Geymann seems headed for his third and final term in the House. He’s definitely leadership material and can handle my tax money anytime.

Jim Beam, the retired editor of the Lake Charles American Press, has covered people and politics for more than five decades. Contact him at 494-4025 or [email protected].



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