Apr 15, 2010 4:14 PM by Melissa Canone
BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) - House Speaker Jim Tucker said lawmakers
want to close the state's $319 million deficit within two weeks,
hoping to tap unspent funds in state agency accounts while seeking
to avoid furloughs of state employees.
The $29 billion budget must be rebalanced before the fiscal year
ends June 30. But with only 10 weeks remaining in the year, that
harshens any cuts that will be levied on agencies because they have
such a short time to slash funds.
Lawmakers are considering whether to use money from the state's
"rainy day" fund and other one-time dollars to plug some gaps.
Tucker said Thursday that legislative staff and Gov. Bobby Jindal's
budget advisers were scouring state agency budgets for available
account balances that could be used to help offset the deficit.
Jindal said he'd have his recommendations by Friday for dealing
with the deficit.
Tucker, R-Terrytown, said he believes the state will address the
problem without any "drastic reductions" in services, though he
didn't outline a specific set of plans.
"This is not a catastrophe. We will wake up tomorrow, we will
be able to deal with this sufficiently through a number of
different means and we will move on," Tucker said. "And I don't
think it's going to mean any type of drastic reductions in services
to the people of this state."
Asked if the state departments can avoid worker furloughs,
Tucker said lawmakers would do everything they can to avoid them -
though public colleges have warned if they take another deep cut,
they may be forced to send some workers home temporarily without
The latest deficit is tied to unexpected drops in the revenue
expected from individual income, sales and severance taxes. It's
the state's second deficit this year. Any cuts would come on top of
$248 million in reductions ordered by Jindal earlier this fiscal
In anticipation of the latest deficit, the governor ordered a
partial freeze last month on state spending for travel, supplies,
contracts and other services deemed nonessential in most state