Jindal says budget can prompt change
Tuesday, Mar 30, 2010 4:50pm
By Melinda Deslatte • The Associated Press • March 30, 2010
As deep budget cuts threaten state services and jobs, Gov. Bobby Jindal told lawmakers on the opening day of the annual regular session Monday that the money troubles also provide a chance to change the way Louisiana does business.
"It is our job to give our people a new Louisiana so our children and our grandchildren can pursue their dreams without leaving home. I know we've got enormous challenges, but these are enormous opportunities," Jindal told a joint session of the House and Senate.
Louisiana's financial difficulties have overshadowed other debates, as lawmakers, state agencies and public colleges brace for more budget cuts — on top of three rounds of reductions levied over the past year and a half.
"The state's no different than a family. You have to do things differently when there's less money," said Sen. Danny Martiny, R-Kenner. "But I'm sure the people that are going to get cut aren't going to look at it as an opportunity."
A deficit of up to $400 million is projected for the remaining three months of the current fiscal year, and lawmakers will have to rebalance this year's budget before they can devise a final plan for next year.
Sen. Karen Carter Peterson of New Orleans said this session would be the most difficult she's seen in her decade in the Legislature.
Jindal proposed a mix of one-time funding and cuts to balance next year's $24.2 billion budget. Disagreements have already emerged between the House and Senate about how much should be trimmed and how much state trust funds should be tapped to fill gaps in the 2010-11 fiscal year that begins July 1.
Rep. Joe Harrison, R-Napoleonville, said the budget problems are only projected to worsen. "We have to get rid of the frills and fund the necessities," he said. "We need to cut more now."
In his speech, the governor said lawmakers need to unlock some of the state funds that are dedicated to specific programs, ease the ability to tap into state trust funds in difficult budget years and tie dollars to performance standards.