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House Debates How Much Of Rainy Day Fund To Use To Close Budget Gap

Louisiana State Capitol (wikimedia commons)
Louisiana State Capitol (wikimedia commons)

Today the state House will decide how much, if any, of the rainy day fund to use to close a $304 million budget shortfall. New Orleans Representative Walt Leger says lawmakers passed a budget last year describing what they want to accomplish for the people of Louisiana, and it’s the legislature’s responsibility to meet those promises. He says the best way to accomplish that would be to use $119 million from the rainy day fund.

“I’m disappointed that these bills have moved forward using none of or a small portion of the available rainy day funds,” Leger said.

Leger says the rainy day fund was created for this purpose, to deal with shortfalls. He says some lawmakers have proposed additional cuts without consulting the agencies that would be affected. He says some of the proposals would have major implications for Louisianans.

“Those seeking psychiatric help and behavioral health services are already waiting but will now wait significantly longer under the proposed additional reductions,” Leger said.

A bill up for debate today on the House floor would use $74 million from the state’s savings account, but Baton Rouge Representative Rick Edmonds co-authored a bill that would use no rainy day dollars to close the budget gap. He says after some investigating, he found areas in state government that can be cut to reduce the shortfall.

“We found about 1,750 funded unfilled vacancies in our state agencies. This does not mean that we are cutting any employees or laying anybody off or any of that,” Edmonds said.

Edmonds’ bill is also up for debate today on the House floor. He says he understands that no cuts are easy, but lawmakers have a responsibility to balance the budget.

“They’re cuts, and they are what they are, but you also have the responsibility of knowing that we just don’t have the money. I mean, we don’t want to hurt anyone,” Edmonds said.

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