Albert Robichaux Jr. came to the State Capitol Wednesday on a mission to explain dollars and cents to legislators.
As executive director and chief executive officer of the Jefferson Council on Aging in Metairie, Robichaux pushed for additional funding for senior centers a day ahead of the $25 billion proposed state spending plan hitting the state Senate floor.
Robichaux left happy, confident that he eliminated confusion over how much money the senior centers need. “There was a problem with the addition and subtraction,” he said, explaining the centers’ complex funding formulas.
Others are less happy as the state Senate prepares to tackle a state budget that funds hospitals and colleges. Senate debate and a voted is scheduled for Thursday afternoon.
Advancement of House Bill 1, the state operating budget for the fiscal year that starts in July, will set the stage for a battle in the Louisiana House.
At issue is how much nonrecurring, or one-time, money should be used to pay expenses that must be met year after year.
The state Senate and Gov. Bobby Jindal want to use the one-time money to get the state through rough economic times. Some Republicans in the House contend it is irresponsible to rely on money likely to materialize once. The Legislature must adjourn by Monday at 6 p.m.
Once HB1 passes the Senate, it will move to the House for concurrence on changes that restored the one-time money a group of state representatives purged.
Jindal ventured into the Senate chamber Wednesday to help laud Louisiana Supreme Court Chief Justice Kitty Kimball, who is retiring. Afterward, Jindal posed for pictures with visiting beauty queens.
The governor said the state Senate Finance Committee improved the budget by restoring one-time money to it. He brushed off concerns about the dispute between the House and the Senate.
“We’re going to get a budget done. This happens every year,” Jindal said.
A self-described “fiscal conservative” said the disagreements are huge. “Our position right now is we’re not going to support the budget,” state Rep. Brett Geymann said Wednesday.
Geymann, R-Lake Charles, said he would not rule out the possibility of a special session to iron out differences on the state spending plan.
Across the hall in the Senate, legislators seem to be resigned to using one-time money, at least for a few years.
“We have to balance the budget,” said state Sen. Danny Martiny, R-Metairie.
Martiny said he is not happy with using the one-time money to balance next year’s budget. He said he is uncertain the state could sustain higher education and health care without the one-time money.
State Sen. Mike Walsworth, R-West Monroe, said he can live with the budget as it stands now.
“Is it where I would love it to be? No,” he said.
Walsworth said the Senate compromised by keeping the use of one-time money within limits.
Another compromise being offered is Senate Concurrent Resolution No. 103 by state Sen. Jack Donahue, R-Mandeville, to study the impact of tax credits, exemptions and rebates on the state budget. The thinking is that adjustments eventually might be made to some of those tax breaks to free up state revenue.
The House Committee on House and Governmental Affairs advanced SCR103 Wednesday.
Walsworth said he hopes House Republicans opposed to the use of one-time money will change their minds. “We all have friends on both sides, and we’re talking to colleagues,” Walsworth said.