Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Fiscal hawks bludgeon Jindal's budgeting

Bobby Jindal, on a windy day

Just in case you're speed dating tonight and want to talk about Bobby Jindal's budget and the lawsuit filed against it yesterday, well, read this post very closely. If it doesn't work out for you after this, then I'm out of answers.

Here's the gist: in Louisiana, there's an ongoing struggle between some conservative Louisiana lawmakers and their governor, Bobby Jindal, and this is why.

Louisiana's $25 billion budget includes money from "nonrecurring" items -- in other words, it takes money from things that might not go on to spend money on things that will go on.

Example: The state gets money from a legal settlement, plugs that one-time settlement money into the budget, and buys itself ongoing government spending on things like education.

The problem? One-time settlement money is one-time, and the lawsuit claims that that's unconstitutional in Louisiana land.

Even more troubling, according to conservative lawmakers, is that Jindal is accused of using money that hasn't even materialized in the budget, and isn't even certain to materialize.

For example, the governor banked on using the proceeds from leasing New Orleans Adolescent Hospital to help pay health care treatment for the poor, an expense the state must meet year after year.

Nearly six months after the budget went into effect, the lease still is not final. Appraisals also show the hospital is worth $14 million less than the Jindal administration hopes to collect by renting it.

But Jindal's administration seems fine with the arrangement.

The Jindal administration said public colleges and health services would have faced devastating cuts without the funding, and a majority of lawmakers agreed to use the money to stave off the reductions. Senators voted unanimously for a budget that included the one-time money.

"It doesn't make sense to make unnecessary cuts to health care and higher education," the governor said.

Now, this isn't something that's likely to dog Jindal.

Democrats are on board with the budgeting and enough Republicans are, too -- not to mention the public, which welcomes the higher spending.

But it IS an example of Jindal using a controversial method to buttress his record and avoid a politically tough choice, and that matters.

So, to finish where we started -- little known fact -- Burt Lancaster and Deborah Kerr were talking about using funding from non-recurring funding right before filming this scene. They were both for it.