GOP committee proposes budget

Published 5:26 am Friday, February 17, 2017

On Wednesday, Republicans on the House Appropriations Committee approved a compromise budget proposal authored by Appropriations Chairman Cameron Henry, R-Metairie. The budget proposal will most likely be heard on the House floor by the end of this week.

The proposal explores solving the current fiscal year’s $304 million budget deficit by utilizing a combination of recommendations made by Gov. John Bel Edwards and by members of the Louisiana House Republican delegation. This proposal does not raise taxes or fees and does not utilize the entire $119 million of Rainy Day Fund dollars available to be used.

“We are coming to the table with a plan that utilizes recommendations made by both sides,” said House Republican Delegation Chairman Lance Harris, R-Alexandria. “Governor Edwards stated in his opening address on Monday that ‘compromise isn’t a bad thing.’ We agree and are doing everything we can to work with him to achieve a balanced approach without compromising our constituents’ conservative principles.

“We must remember though, after Governor Edwards’ recommendation on cuts, our state government is still growing 7.8 percent from last fiscal year. And, with the cuts we are recommending, the budget is not cutting any department by more than 5 percent.”

Henry said that the proposal will not only alleviate this year’s financial problems, but also ensure they will not be repeated in coming years.

“The budget proposal we drafted will help address not only this fiscal year’s budget deficit but will also assist with solving future ones,” Henry said. “With the budget rapidly growing in coming years, we must make decisions today that will right-size government for the current and for future years. For example, if we continue on the route we are going, Higher Education and the Louisiana Department of Health will be requesting a 20.5 percent increase and 19.7 percent increase, respectively. Our state government and the taxpayers of Louisiana cannot afford these types of increases.”

Harris and Henry both agree that utilizing the complete $119 million allowed by law from the Rainy Day Fund would be an irresponsible move. By doing this, they argue that is does not assist with solving future deficits because it utilizes a short-term fix with one-time money that will not be available in future fiscal years.

“If we are ever going to get out of a perpetual cycle of deficits, we must get out of the mindset we should use the full amount of available funds in our savings account,” Henry said. “If we use the full amount, it’s gone and cannot be used again.

“There are options on the table that include cutting government bureaucracy and waste that can be done without reducing funds for vital services, such as medical waivers for children.”