Lawmakers Suggest Different Approaches To Closing Budget Gap
The Edwards administration will unveil a proposal on Friday on how to close a $304 million budget deficit for this fiscal year. Lawmakers are split on whether or not to tap into the state’s rainy day fund to close the gap. Lake Charles Representative Mark Abraham sits on the Appropriations Committee and says he’s still not sure if that’s the way to go.
“I do believe we need to cut, but until I know how those cuts affect higher education and exactly how they affect the Department of Health, then I cannot make a decision that says I’m not going to use the rainy day fund,” Abraham said.
Some legislators are even debating whether or not another special session next month will be necessary. Alexandria Representative Lance Harris proposed a plan to cut the budget without a special session. Abraham says the governor could make the cuts needed to avoid another session, but without the session, they might be more devastating.
“If we want to make broader cuts throughout the entire government budget, then the special session is fine, and we can look at those cuts,” Abraham said.
Oil City Representative Jim Morris is not in favor of using the rainy day fund to ease some of the cuts to state agencies. He says you can’t spend money you don’t have, which many in the legislature constantly want to do.
“To me it appears we’re trying to attempt to do the same thing over and over and over that got us here to begin with, like borrowing one time money against a reoccurring expense, and I just don’t think that’s going to work,” Morris said.
While there isn’t much of an appetite at the Capitol to raise more taxes, one option would be to broaden the base of the clean penny that was added to the sales tax last year. Morris says that might work, but he doesn’t want to put a bigger burden on taxpayers.
“I would certainly have to have a lowering of the rates to go along with it. I’m not for broadening the base and then keeping the rates as high as they are or increasing them. It’d have to be a reduction in the rate for me to consider it,” Morris said.