Edwards' Budget Chief: Fiscal Cliff Requires Urgency Among Lawmakers

BATON ROUGE, La. (WVLA / WGMB) - Gov. John Bel Edwards' chief budget negotiator, Commissioner of Administration Jay Dardenne, resumed his push Wednesday to avoid a fiscal cliff.

"Come July 1, we'll all be tumbling off together," Dardenne told the Baton Rouge Rotary Club, referencing the date Louisiana stands to lose $1.2 billion in expiring temporary tax revenue. 

Dardenne argued that past governors, namely Bobby Jindal, made a habit of plugging budget holes with short-term revenue.

"The previous administration found as much one-time money as it could and used it to fund recurring expenses," he said. "That does not sound to me like a smart business practice."

A 13-member legislative task force this past January recommended the state slim down exemptions, broaden tax bases and lower overall rates. Gov. Edwards backed the suggestions, though lawmakers largely rejected them during this year's legislative session. Members of the governor's office claim the state House of Representatives has yet to offer an alternative to the recommendations.

"They have an obligation to say what they don't want to fund," said Dardenne. "Because they've conveniently refused to come forward with any proposal to cut the budget, at the same time that they're not supporting any taxes."

The stalemate prompted Edwards to pen a letter last month to state Speaker of the House Taylor Barras. "It would be in our best interest to meet as soon as possible to discuss a path forward," the governor wrote. "I would also ask that you consider the formation of a working group to include Republicans and Democrats, who can sit down with us to discuss ideas and options."

Dardenne, who told reporters Wednesday that Barras has yet to reply to Edwards' letter, suggested that widespread budget cuts may be the only way to avert the cliff.

"Corrections, children and family services, higher education have no protection," "We don't want to do anything except improve higher education, but if we have a billion-dollar shortfall, we're not going to have any choice."

Dardenne sought to debunk claims that state government has grown in size since Edwards took office last January.

"This governor has not grown state government," he said.

 

The 2018 state general fund is $9.4 billion, roughly $1 billion less than it was a decade ago. Spending growth has largely come from the federal level. Federal dollars account for 40 percent of the state budget today, compared to 23 percent in 1982.

 


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