Governor John Bel Edwards’ presents multi-billion dollar budget to lawmakers

State Politics

BATON ROUGE, La. (WVLA) – Lawmakers met in a committee room at the Capitol Friday morning to discuss the 2020-2021 budget that contains 32.2 billion dollars.

Commissioner of Administration, Jay Dardenne told the Joint Legislative Committee on Budget that the 2020-2021 fiscal year will begin this July.

Governor Edwards anticipates that an additional 103 million dollars will be added to next year’s revenue forecast and wants to implement major increased spending on education, which would be a campaign promise coming to fruition.

Some believe that’s an overly-optimistic view of money that’s technically not in the state coffers yet.

So a familiar argument is shaping up because Republican leadership has hinted the state might not collect as much money as nonpartisan economists think.

That issue resulted in a deadlock during last year’s legislative sessions as lawmakers argued over how much the state can spend.

“We have multiple times been aggressive with our estimates only to come back half way through the year and have to start cutting midyear budget cuts, and that’s what I was hoping to avoid,” said Former Speaker of the House Taylor Barras.

You might recall lawmakers during 2017 talked of major cuts to education, health care, and several other critical services from the state.

Back to present day, on Friday Dardene, quickly found himself somewhat on the defensive, flashing a picture on the projector of the movie Groundhog Day. He told the committee this is exactly what they were arguing about this time last year.

“The Revenue Estimating Conference is properly named, it estimates,” Dardenne said.

So far the REC has yet to agree on a forecast, which has frustrated those involved in the process, including the Governor. He wrote, “The Revenue Estimating Conference was designed as a non-political way to determine the amount of revenue to be used in the development of the state’s budget. Recently, the REC has become a way to stall the budget proceedings by not using the nonpartisan economic forecasts of the state’s two expert economists.”

The Revenue Estimating officials will meet a few more times before the new fiscal year starts July 1st, so the hope is they’ll estimate a figure everyone can agree on very soon.

Governor Edwards said he holds out hope that the newly elected House Speaker Clay Schexnayder and Senate President  Page Cortez  “will act in the near future to approve a forecast by one of the state’s two economists that will allow us to have a fruitful discussion of our spending priorities.”

Also discussed at the meeting was the current year’s budget surplus of 534 million dollars and what to spend it on. The purpose of the meeting was to go over suggestions and discuss possibilities not to take an decisive action.

“We view this as a starting point,” Dardenne told committee members as he ended his presentation.

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