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State budget talks to begin this week

by Minden Press-Herald

State Rep. Gene Reynolds, district 10, will go to Baton Rouge this week to meet with a group of legislators to discuss ideas on what to do with next year’s budget.

There are three areas they will look at, he said, which include tax reform, budget structure reform and capital outlay.

“We can’t just walk into a session without an idea of what we’re going to do,” he said, “so we’re trying to get ahead of the game a little bit. It’s going to be everyone, Republicans and Democrats.”

During this meeting, Reynolds says they will look at how the budget is put together, taxes that do not work and how they can transfer money from capital outlay for roads and bridges. They will also look at undedicated money to see how they can move it around, he said.

Economists will also be a part of the discussion process to advise them on what they can and can’t do as well as what is realistic, he said.

“It’s not going to happen in one year,” he said. “The consensus is everybody is tired of the Jindal administration. I’m not sure of how much we’ll get done, but I’m sure we’ll get something done. Everybody is just sick and tired of the same old thing.”

Coupled with a new governor in January, the idea, he says, is to loosen up money in other areas in order to move that money into healthcare and higher education, the only two areas of the budget that are undedicated funds.

Much of the state’s budget is constitutionally dedicated, which means it cannot be touched. Reynolds says there’s very little money that can be moved around to plug holes in the budget if need be.

“What we tried to do last year was hold higher education to what it was the year before,” he said. “It’s been cut for the last year. That was the whole idea of some of the rebates being taken away so it would help the hospitals too. We tried to hold the line and stop the bleeding last year. This year, we have to do better.”

About 45 percent of Louisiana’s budget is federal money, dedicated money.

“About $7 billion to $9 billion of that was tax rebates that we’ve given companies for a long, long, long time,” he said in June. “So about $3 billion of that was general fund; the rest of that is dedicated to something constitutionally.

“If you dedicate all your money and give away the kind of money we’ve been giving away in tax credits, something’s got to give, and the only thing that’s not dedicated is higher ed and health and hospitals,” he continued. “That’s why we get clobbered year in and year out.”

In April, Louisiana was facing a $1.6 billion shortfall. To close that gap, the legislature made cuts across the board and took away some tax rebates.

By the end of the session, legislators passed a $24 billion budget. The fiscal year began July 1.

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