Local delegates talk numbers
Rep. Gene Reynolds, Webster Parish's newcomer to the Legislative ring, joined seasoned veteran Sen. Robert Adley in a lunch forum Friday that highlighted a small portion of the three months lawmakers spent covering almost 2,000 bills during the 2012 session.
Adley, who term-limited in the House of Representatives and is serving his last term in the Senate, said the lack of institutional knowledge due to first and second-term legislators, is part of what made a challenge of passing a $25.6 billion budget.
However, Adley was quick to say that Reynolds was not part of the problem but worked hard to provide a solution after House Republicans stripped $268 million in one-time money out of the 2012-13 budget, arguing the dollars shouldn't pay for continuing services.
"Those cuts would be primarily higher education, health and hospitals and tourism," said Reynolds, who cast a dissenting vote. "We sent HB 1 over to the Senate, where they restored it because those kinds of cuts, in addition to the more than $300 million in cuts, would've been devastating to the services and jobs and economy."
"When the House sent the budget to us and said 'we're going to cut $267 million out of the budget,' we said, 'well, that's good. Where are you going to cut it?'" Adley said. "They refused to tell us. They just put a note in the budget that said we're going to let the Division of Administration cut $267 million where he sees fit. That's not how you play the game. You're down there to make decisions. Make specific cuts."
Adley described Louisiana as an oil and gas state with an income that fluctuates.
"So we created a Rainy Day Fund, so when our income is on the high side, we set aside money that when we're on the low side can help stabilize our cash flow," he said.
As a businessman, Adley said every year he has to stabilize his cash flow.
"The state of Louisiana is no different than any other business," he said. "You have two pots of money to stabilize with – Rainy Day Fund and one-time monies.
And while $25 billion sounds like a lot of money on which to run a state, the local delegation pointed out that very little of that money is actually in the state general fund.
"Out of that whole $25 billion budget, only $8 billion of it is general fund," Adley said. "Out of that $8 billion, 75 percent of that is dedicated, so we're left dealing with 20 to 25 percent of $8 billion, and that just happens to be higher education and health care."
In Webster Parish, Adley pointed out that Northwest Louisiana Technical College would be the institution most affected by the cuts.
"So, when you start talking about $200 or $300 million and you're going to cut it from one specific place that represents 20 to 25 percent of the budget, that's huge," he said. "They (NWLTC) cannot take those cuts and survive, so we level out our cash flow."
In the end, the Senate cut $100 million out of budget and returned it to the House with a unanimous vote.
The House, on a 62-40 vote – this time Reynolds voted in favor – approved the Senate version of the spending plan for the fiscal year that begins July 1. The vote gave final passage to the measure, sending it to Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal for his signature.