Apr 21, 2010 7:07 PM by Melissa Canone
BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) - The haggling between the House, Senate
and the governor's office over the best way to rebalance this
year's budget and close a $319 million gap began Wednesday, when a
Senate committee suggested lawmakers should consider tapping the
"rainy day" fund.
Without objection, the Senate Finance Committee approved
legislation (Senate Concurrent Resolution 42) that would use $172
million from the fund, formally called the Budget Stabilization
Fund, to help plug this year's deficit. The legislation heads next
to the full Senate for debate.
Gov. Bobby Jindal doesn't support using the rainy day fund this
year, arguing the savings account should be saved for the 2011-12
budget year, when the state's money problems are expected to worsen
as federal stimulus dollars disappear.
Instead, Jindal proposed rebalancing this year's $29 billion
budget with a mix of other one-time dollars and cuts to agencies
and colleges. The governor said the cuts won't harm campuses or
state services because he only targeted the savings generated by
freezes he enacted earlier this year on hiring and nonessential
Members of the Finance Committee questioned some of the one-time
dollars Jindal proposes to use. Senate President Joel Chaisson,
D-Destrehan, said use of the rainy day fund should be included in
the debate over how best to address the deficit.
"I think it's a reasonable alternative that we should
consider," Chaisson said.
Lawmakers on the House budget committee, however, have expressed
disinterest in using the rainy day fund, and House Speaker Jim
Tucker has said it would be difficult to get a two-thirds vote in
the House for tapping into the fund.