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Senate to account for third deficit

BATON ROUGE (AP) — Louisiana doesn’t officially have a third budget deficit this year, but senators said Monday they will propose rebalancing the budget to account for economists’ predictions of another drop in state income.

Economists last week projected the state will end this year with at least a $261 million deficit. But House Speaker Jim Tucker refused to boost the current year deficit projection officially from $319 million to more than $580 million, saying that move would be premature.

Senate Finance Chairman Mike Michot said even without the formal revision, his committee will work to rebalance this year’s budget under the assumption of a $580 million deficit. Michot, R-Lafayette, said the state shouldn’t end the fiscal year on June 30 with a deficit.

‘‘We feel like it’s the responsible thing to do to address the deficit now,’’ he said.

The Senate committee is scheduled to release its budget plans Tuesday, reworking House-passed budget bills for this year and for the upcoming fiscal year that begins July 1.

Tucker, R-Terrytown, doesn’t want to address the third and latest deficit now, arguing the revenue figures are uncertain and lawmakers would be better equipped to deal with the new deficit in the fall.

He stalled action of the state income forecasting panel, the Revenue Estimating Conference, on the new deficit projections last week. The four-member panel needs a unanimous vote to revise the estimates, and Tucker refused to join the other three members in approving the revision.

If Tucker won’t recognize the new deficit, lawmakers aren’t obligated to deal with it before they adjourn June 21. Senate leaders and Commissioner of Administration Angele Davis, the governor’s top fiscal analyst, have called the move irresponsible.

House Bill 1358 can be found at www.legis.state.la.us

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