Before we get into some of the clown show surrounding the adoption of the budget, here’s what you need to know about the budget itself.
- The state budget the upcoming year is $24.3 billion, which is down from $25 billion from the current budget. However, the new budget is still up from $22.9 billion in FY 2014.
- The “cuts” were largely to the Executive office (ie. Jindal’s bureaucracy). The biggest loser there was a fund dealing with Hurricane Katrina, Rita, and Gustav recovery. In other words, this was a slush fund for Jindal.
- The Louisiana State Police had an oil spill recovery related slush fund whacked as well.
- Most of the “cuts” in the rest of the state budget are eliminating positions (usually vacancies) or are cost savings by being more efficient (which is a good thing). The Legislature should’ve made most of these “cuts” years ago.
- The Tax Orgy wound up raising $615 million to make “higher education whole.” That means SUNO and LSU Alexandria can continue to be embarrassments to Louisiana higher education with their >20% graduation rates over 6 years.
- The Department of Health and Hospitals saw an overall increase of 2.0% from $9.5 billion to nearly $9.7 billion.
- Higher education stayed largely the same at $2.6 billion, but is still $130 million more than what it was two years ago. This is despite the fact attendance is down at most Louisiana universities.
The budget debate at times turned into a clown show. We had a few interesting amendments adopted. One that struck out was an amendment by State Rep. Chris Broadwater (R-Hammond) that raised some eyebrows. It cut $25.8 million and eliminated 351 positions in the Office of Public Health. No one seems to know why Broadwater brought the amendment, but it passed.
There was an amendment by State Rep. Ted James (D-Baton Rouge) to cut State Police funding for Jindal’s out of state business trips to Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina. While this is a petty amendment, it passed with a few Republicans voting for it.
Finally, there was an amendment by State Rep. Steve Pylant (R-Winnsboro) to bar the Department of Corrections from housing inmates in private prisons until all local jails are full. The sheriffs love something like this because they keep getting money from the state for housing inmates. It passed overwhelmingly.
Members, including some who didn’t vote for the Tax Orgy, began offering their amendments. This angered State Rep. Lance Morris (RINO-Alexandria) who is allegedly the head of the Republican legislative delegation.
Also, Appropriations Chairman Jim Fannin (R-Jonesboro) kept saying the Senate needed to raise taxes by another $150 million to “fully fund the hospitals.” However, Senate President John Alario (R-Westwego) and Senate Finance Chairman Jack Donahue (R-Mandeville) have shown no interest in additional tax increases.