BATON ROUGE, La. (BRPROUD) — The state budget is flying through the legislature but some are raising concerns about high spending and a looming fiscal cliff. On Thursday, the state House of Representatives passed the state’s budget in a quick fashion just about halfway through the regular session.
The state’s operating budget is $38 billion for the next fiscal year. It has increased by millions due to economic growth after the pandemic. There are some big-ticket projects in the works using one-time money but some are wary to spend so much now while this cash flow is not expected to last.
“My concern is next year when we build our budget that is our new baseline. So we’ll start at $10.9 [million] and we will build off that with our continuation budget,” Rep. Blake Miguez said. “My question is why has it grown so much and is it sustainable?”
This isn’t the last stop for the budget — but it’s leaving the House earlier than normal. This raises some red flags for some of the members. Rep. Miguez asked about the anticipated $650-million fiscal cliff expected to hit in 2025. Leadership and the governor assure steps are being taken now to prevent it.
“The next budget, when it comes up, we’re going to address that and reduce recurring expenditures and if we keep chipping away I think we can make ourselves, we can if we hopefully continue on this path be prepared for and it won’t be as impactful when that budget shortfall does happen,” Rep. Jerome Zeringue said.
Gov. John Bel Edwards’ proposed budget has been picked apart already, including his proposal to save $500 million for a new Mississippi River Bridge. They’ve already moved $100 million to a roads and bridges fund and $400 million has yet to be decided on. The governor hopes to put it back together on the Senate side and said he is disappointed by the move of the representatives.
“But it’s got to be fixed in a way that actually allows the money to be safeguarded and preserved and available only for the bridge otherwise it doesn’t really help you… to be able to use the money to convince the federal government that we are serious,” Gov. Edwards said.
Gov. Edwards also said he did not understand why $26 million for supplemental pay for law enforcement and firefighters were taken out of the budget. He said Louisiana is not a state that supports defunding the police but doesn’t believe that is why the House took it out.
Despite the concerns, the budget is now tossed to the Senate where even more changes are expected. Once the Senate finishes with the budget it will be sent to the conference committee to work out any more details. The House also passed the capital outlay, which outlines major projects in all regions of the state. As well as, the supplemental funding bill comprised of smaller pet projects.