Anders: State budget is tight

Published 12:00 am Saturday, March 20, 2010

VIDALIA — With nine days left until the start of the state legislative session, Rep. Andy Anders said the state budget is going to be tight, but that some positions need to remain filled despite a hiring freeze.

Anders, who serves as the chairman of the house agriculture committee and as a member of the house insurance and homeland security committees, has been in Baton Rouge this week preparing for the session.

While he’s been busy with agriculture issues, he’s heard plenty about the budget, Anders said.

“They were in there battling with the budget today, and when I left they were still in there,” he said. “Every time you get things worked out, there is a new negative figure that comes in here.”

State revenues have been lower than expected, and so those losses will have to be reflected in the budget, Anders said.

“The money is tight all over the country with the economy like it is, and we are certainly going to work through this the best way we can so we can at least say we are a viable state,” he said.

“We have more resources than other states, we have to work among our means. There are wants and there are needs, and we have to make sure we supply our needs. That’s all it boils down to, common sense.”

The governor announced Friday that the salaries for all state workers had been frozen, and Anders said a hiring freeze has been in place over some departments for some time.

But he said he would like to see some sort of solution worked out, at least as far as the Department of Agriculture and Forestry is concerned.

“Some of these (positions) are (funded by) federal monies and others are funded by grant monies that come from companies like Monsanto, but we can’t hire top notch employees coming straight out of college because we have a hiring freeze,” he said.

“I’m telling them, ‘There are certain things that aren’t state funds that y’all are controlling.’”

He also said he wants to make sure some positions stay filled.

“(Agriculture and Forestry) Commissioner Mike Strain has sold vehicles and sold other things to keep up with the budget cuts, but now we have kind of run out of assets are we are having to deal with what we have, but you can’t lose meat inspectors and other things like that,” Anders said. “You certainly don’t want to be in a situation where your food is not being tested.”

Likewise, while Anders said he favors eliminating some positions through attrition, he said he doesn’t want to see anyone fired.

“We are going to work and try to keep as many people employed as we can,” he said. “I don’t want to see anybody lose their job in this economy.”

The healthcare reform package currently before the U.S. Congress will also likely figure into what the state legislature does, Anders said.

“Whether that thing is passed or not, that affects the state, too,” he said. “I know that whatever we are going to do with that, we are going to do it the right way for Louisiana.”