Tea Party takes on Jindal over use of “one-time” money

A House resolution backed by Gov. Bobby Jindal, to reinstate use of one-time money to cover current budgetary expenses is up for debate in committee today.

Rep. Brett Geymann’s (R-Lake Charles) HR 27, which passed 60 to 42 in a House vote on May 23, precludes the use of nonrecurring state dollars to balance the budget without 2/3 approval from House lawmakers. Geymann has argued that his resolution will bring more accountability and transparency to the spending process.

However, HR 27 threatens Gov. Jindal’s plan to cover health care costs with one-time revenue from the sale of state prisons to private firms, and Jindal warns that it would create pressure for new tax hikes.

Rep. Erich Ponti (R-Baton Rouge) has introduced HR 43 to cancel out Geymann’s rule. That is set for debate today in the House and Government Affairs Committee.

“Now is the time for conservatives to stand up and say ‘no’ to the use of one-time time money and to keep this rule in place so we can have fiscal discipline,” Geymann said. “I’m disappointed there is opposition from the governor’s office, but there are long-standing spending practices that reach back to administrations in both parties that need to end.”

Although the rule technically only applies to the House, it also impacts spending patterns in the Senate, Geymann said. Any amendment from the Senate that calls for using “one-time” money will require a 2/3 vote in the House to adopt it, he explained.

For this reason, Geymann anticipates that his resolution will bring fiscal discipline to both legislative chambers. In response, Kyle Plotkin, a press secretary for Gov. Jindal, said the 2/3 requirement to use money that is already available will actually make it easier for lawmakers to hike taxes.

“It’s simply irresponsible to arbitrarily cut health care and higher education when there are other dollars available,” he said. “All that does is increase the pressure on the Legislature to raise taxes and that’s a mistake.”

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.”

Kevin Mooney is an investigative reporter with the Pelican Institute for Public Policy. He can be reached at kmooney@pelicanpolicy.org. Follow him on Twitter.