Senate backs budget cut flexibility

Published 12:00 am Thursday, May 28, 2009

BATON ROUGE (AP) — A package of bills sought by Gov. Bobby Jindal to make more of Louisiana’s budget vulnerable to spending cuts during financial troubles received quick, unanimous approval Wednesday from the state Senate.

The bills would increase a cap on cuts the governor and Legislature can make to certain dedicated funds from 5 percent to 10 percent. The bills would allow that level of cuts annually, if the budget woes persist.

The measures head next to the House for debate. If passed there, they wouldn’t offer quick relief, however. The constitutional change to the cap on the level of cuts made to dedicated funds would need approval from voters in the 2010 election before it could take effect.

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Senate President Joel Chaisson, D-Destrehan, said the bills would help lessen the brunt of budget cuts on public colleges and health care services by allowing deeper cuts to dedicated and protected state funds during an economic downturn.

Over the years, lawmakers have locked more than half the state’s income into specific programs, making the money largely protected from budget cuts. That leaves Louisiana’s public colleges and health care programs taking the largest hits in tight budget years.

Lawmakers have become acutely aware of the limitations of their budget cutting authority now that the state faces budget shortfalls.

On the Net:

Senate Bills 1, 2 and 34 can be found at