THE BUDGET: Whole Lotta Speechifyin’ Goin’ On

Yesterday’s fireworks on the Louisiana House floor after the body’s fiscal hawks introduced an amendment to replace the use of one-time money with a menu of budget cuts the Jindal administration could choose from in order to close a $267 million hole made for some extremely interesting viewing, and we’re offering up some highlights from the debate here.

If you watch nothing else from the action, though, the speech of House Appropriations chairman Jim Fannin (D-Jonesboro) deserves a look – because Fannin’s appearance on the floor set the stage for everything else that went on yesterday.

In the speech, Fannin ripped into the fiscal conservatives seeking to present those optional cuts – he said doing so was an abandonment of the House’s authority, and that abandonment would result in people back home in each member’s districts being hurt. That result, he said, would cause those members to lose re-election.

Fannin’s statement and threats didn’t sit well with many of the fiscal hawks. Rep. John Schroder (R-Covington) took to the podium and slapped down the chairman’s arguments in a colorful stemwinder for the ages…

Rep. Brett Geymann (R-Lake Charles), whose rule passed last year requiring a two-thirds vote in order for the House to consent in the use of one-time funds was the instrument causing the debate of the menu-of-cuts amendment, was a bit more polite to Fannin but no less strident in opposing his attacks…

Rep. Simone Champagne (R-Erath) then took the floor, which is unusual – and was pretty fired up about Fannin’s speech…

And two other speakers deserve mention – Rep. Jay Morris (R-Monroe) and Lance Harris (R-Alexandria), both of whom got pretty passionate.

After the speeches, the House voted 51-48 in favor of the amendment. And then the budget passed on a 61-28 vote, which moves it to the Senate – where the use of one-time money to fund large-scale and often pork-barrel spending has traditionally been far more popular.

The debate isn’t over. In fact, it’s just been engaged. And at least the House appears serious about getting the state’s fisc in order.

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