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Anders: Budget woes dominate legislative session

VIDALIA — When District 21 Rep. Andy Anders headed to Baton Rouge at the beginning of the legislative session, he predicted budget woes would dominate the session.

And his prediction turned out to be right.

“It was all the battle of the monies,” he said.

The budget that finally passed the legislature was the Senate’s version of the House budget, with the Senate revision using more non-recurring funding resources than the original House version. The budget projects for a more than $1 billion loss in state revenue.

The House version of the budget bill also included more cuts than the Senate version; while the House proposal cut more than $400 million from the governor’s proposal, the Senate version — which was passed by the House Sunday — had only $70 million in cuts.

Anders said he voted for the final bill after the governor sent the House a letter urging them to adopt the Senate version of the budget, but he did so hesitantly.

“Next year, with their bill we will have to raise taxes or something,” Anders said.

“I don’t know how (the governor) is going to deal with this problem next year, with a tax on gas pipelines or whatever he wants, but somebody has to run a balanced budget.”

State law mandates that the legislature pass a balanced budget.

External circumstances also affected how legislators and the governor interacted, in particular the ongoing oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico.

Whereas in the past the governor may have spoken with legislators on a given topic, they may have gotten face time with his attorneys or other representatives instead.

“It was all done by telephone or e-mail,” Anders said. “I would see the (gubernatorial) helicopter leave in the morning and come in on the evening, but as far as him being on the floor of the capital, I haven’t seen him in a couple of weeks.”

Other legislative items that caught Anders’ attention were a bill by Rep. John Labruzzo that would have required 20 percent of welfare recipients to be drug tested, a measure Anders said he voted for but ultimately failed in the Senate.

A measure Anders said he voted against that passed was the bill authored by Rep. Frank Hoffman that will require that teachers be evaluated based on a value-added model.

The new law will require an annual evaluation of all teachers and administrators rather than current law, which requires a formal evaluation at the local level every three years.

The evaluation will have to be determined in part by a value-added formula that the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education will develop at a later date.

Anders said he voted against the measure after talking to school districts in his district.

“I called superintendents and administrators, and they were against it,” he said. “I voted against it, and I caught hell from the governor, but I told him, ‘I voted the way the people back home wanted.’”

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