This clip comes courtesy of John Schroder’s campaign for state treasurer, as it’s Schroder’s signature moment to put himself on the political map in that race.
Essentially, the budgetary portion of the current legislative special session (the only other issue was supposed to be expelling Troy Brown from the Senate, and Brown took care of that problem himself yesterday) comes down to one argument – whether the state will resolve the $119 million left in the current-year budget deficit through draining that amount from the rainy-day fund, or whether it will limit its use of that fund to $75 million and eliminate the rest of the deficit by making actual budget cuts. Republicans in the House Appropriations Committee, led by Rep. Cameron Henry (R-Metairie), have proposed a plan to take those cuts mostly out of the gargantuan Department of Health and Hospitals budget, with a bit of a haircut in higher education as well.
Objectively, two things can be said. First, given that the state’s budget has been in a constant state of deficit ever since the flood of federal recovery dollars from Katrina started dwindling, it is unquestionably more rational to attempt to make permanent structural cuts to the budget in order that what progress can be made toward bringing it into balance would be “banked” for future budgets. Using the rainy-day fund to paper over a structural budget imbalance merely puts off the inevitable reckoning – and when the fund is drained out, there will be no soft landing. A little pain now is surely better than a lot later.
Second, as the initial argument was $119 million in budget cuts on the House side with no use of the rainy-day fund as opposed to all $119 million from the rainy day fund on the Gov. John Bel Edwards’ side, the current House plan represents an attempt at compromise which Edwards demanded in his address opening the special session. Initially the plan was to use only $50 million from the rainy day fund, with cuts of $44 million at DHS, $12 million to higher education, $9 million to prisons and $6 million to K-12 schools – but there was lackluster support for that plan.
If anything, Henry is bending over backwards to compromise. And here was how that plan was received…
The governor rejected the proposal, according to accounts of several lawmakers in the meeting, because he opposes any cuts to K-12 schools and further cuts to higher education, which has suffered 16 separate cuts in the past nine years. The governor also said that the $44 million in cuts to health care would take money for the developmentally disabled and for the private partners that operate the state’s safety-net hospital system.
Then Wednesday, Edwards sent Dardenne, his Commissioner of Administration, into the House Appropriations Committee to attack Henry and the other fiscal conservatives as not speaking for the full House while chiding him for not presenting any actual budget cuts. Dardenne had smarted off at the House earlier in the week by asking “What government service do you not want to fund in the few remaining months of the (fiscal) year?”
By the time he was done lecturing Henry as a member of the political fringe (his wording was that Henry represents a “handful of legislators”), Schroder had reached his limit. And this is what followed…
So much for Dardenne trash-talking the budget committee. House Bill 1, which was Edwards’ budget, went down in flames by a 17-5 margin.
This morning the House will debate two budget bills on the floor – Henry’s proposal to use only $75 million of the rainy day fund, and another bill by Rep. Richie Edmonds (R-Baton Rouge) which wouldn’t use any of the fund at all).