Lawmaker Foresees “All Out War” on State Spending with House Resolution
Gov. Jindal warns that two-thirds requirement will increase pressure for tax hikes
An “all out war” on runaway spending is now possible thanks to a new resolution against the use of “one-time” or nonrecurring money for existing expenses. That was the assessment of Rep. Brett Geymann (R-Lake Charles), primary author of HR 27, the day after his proposal passed.
The self-binding resolution passed 60 to 42 in a House vote on Monday and is now in effect. An allocation of “one-time” state dollars to balance the budget now requires a two-thirds majority from House lawmakers.
The House is set to consider a $29.9 billion operating state budget today [Wednesday], but that plan is potentially road blocked by $500 million in non-recurring dollars.
Geymann anticipates a vigorous “push-back” from state agencies and Gov. Bobby Jindal’s office. For this reason, Geymann says conservative activists and Tea Party groups who supported HR 27 need to be in touch with their elected representatives to keep the pressure on against over-spending.
“The legislature has shown it does not have the will power to vote against a budget that has one-time money in it,” Geymann said. So “it was necessary to put a roadblock in place against this kind of spending. Otherwise, we will not see the kind of spending reductions necessary to make us live within our means.”
Gov. Bobby Jindal’s office counters that it will now take a two-thirds vote to use money we already have, while it still takes only a majority vote to suspend tax cuts for a year. Kyle Plotkin, the governor’s press secretary, said “It’s simply irresponsible to arbitrarily cut health care and higher education when there are other dollars available. All that does is increase the pressure on the Legislature to raise taxes and that’s a mistake.”
HR 27 could work against Gov. Jindal’s plan to alleviate health care costs with one-time revenue from the sale of state prisons to private firms.
A new study from the Reason Foundation does show that the use of private prisons can generate taxpayer savings. However, House Speaker Jim Tucker (R-Terrytown) has said that Jindal does not have enough support for his prison sale plan. Regardless, the governor is pressing ahead.
Robin Edwards, who helped found the Louisiana Tea Party Federation, said HR 27 will open up a long-overdue discussion regarding where to make real spending cuts, as opposed to “budgetary gimmicks.”
“I’m certain this will complicate Gov. Jindal’s plans,” she said. “But the upside is this will help to get spending under control, and we need to put an end to this practice of using one-time money to fill holes.”
State Treasurer John Kennedy credited Rep. Geymann and his co-author Rep. Jim Morris (R-Oil City) for pressing ahead in the face of stiff opposition.
“These gentlemen struck a victory for the taxpayers of Louisiana,” Kennedy said. “This is a very good resolution. Any sixth grader knows you should not spend money you don’t have, and the governor knows this. It took courage for both of these individuals to move forward with this legislation and I give them tremendous credit.”
Kennedy also said the opposition building against HR 27 from various state agencies is not unexpected and points to the need for greater activism on the part of concerned citizens.
“Of course agency heads are going to be against this,” he observed. “But when was the last time agency head came to a government committee and said I’ve got enough money, I don’t need any more. We are talking about a beast with a belly that can’t be filled up.”
Kevin Mooney is an investigative reporter with the Pelican Institute for Public Policy. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter.