Bill To Cut Contracts, Fund Higher Ed Advances Without Objection
BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — An effort to force a 10 percent cut on state agencies' spending on consulting and professional services contracts received the support Tuesday of the House Appropriations Committee, without objection.
Rep. Jerome "Dee" Richard, I-Thibodaux, has tried a similar bill for several years, only to see the idea killed in the Senate Finance Committee each time.
This year's proposal has a new twist. It would move any state general fund money that is saved from the contract cuts into a special fund to help pay for public colleges, which have been hit by repeated budget cuts over the last six years.
"I'm tired of seeing us allowing schools to raise tuition to fund higher ed," Richard said.
The bill (House Bill 142), championed by Treasurer John Kennedy, moves next to the full House, which agreed unanimously to Richard's similar contract slashing proposal last year.
Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration opposes the measure.
Commissioner of Administration Kristy Nichols told committee members that the measure would hit services, like psychological counseling for abused children and disabled health care. It also could force the state to unnecessarily cut federal dollars, Nichols said.
"This approach does not lend itself to good government. This is an arbitrary approach," she said.
Nichols said the Jindal administration has reduced consulting and professional services contracts by more than $1 billion since 2008. She said the contracts targeted by Richard's bill total about $3 billion this year.
If enacted, the money spent on consulting and professional services contracts across state government in the upcoming 2014-15 year would have to be 10 percent less than what was spent this year. Higher education contracts, Medicaid contracts and certain contracts in the secretary of state's office would be exempt.
It's unclear how much money the bill could generate for colleges, according to the Legislative Fiscal Office, which analyzes the financial impact of proposals.