A 10-day special session begins tonight as Governor John Bel Edwards is asking lawmakers to use a combination of cuts and money from the rainy day fund to close a 304-million dollar midyear budget deficit. Commissioner of Administration Jay Dardenne says it’s their recommendation that legislators approve the use of 119-million dollars in rainy day dollars.
"If the legislature chooses not to use the fund or not to use the entirety of the fund they need to come up with the cuts they think are more appropriate to be made," Dardenne said.
If the legislature uses 119-million dollars from the rainy day fund on this fiscal year’s budget deficit that means 185-million dollars in cuts and shuffling of dollars will be needed to close the deficit. Republican House Appropriations Chairman Cameron Henry proposes to cut more than what the governor recommends, because the state faces another significant deficit next fiscal year.
"So, I think it's important for us to start working towards a fiscally sound budget by not spending more money then you make and more importantly if you know you're going to be short in the future, you really need to do some reductions now," Henry said.
A two-thirds vote in both the House and Senate is required before money can be taken out of the Rainy Day Fund. Monroe Representative Jay Morris is also in favor of cutting the budget deeper than what the governor proposes.
"My preference is to make the difficult choices now, find the places to cut, so we start from a baseline that's more realistic year over year," Morris said.
Morris says he’s found areas in the Louisiana Department of Health’s budget that can be cut further than what the governor has suggested. He points out a specific program within the governor’s council on physical fitness and sports.
"We're spending $300,000 a year, not a whole lot of money, but still every dime counts, apparently paying people to go make speeches at high school, like former LSU basketball players and a like."
The special session must conclude business by midnight February 22nd.