House Republicans Propose Bill Against One-Time Dollars For Recurring Expenses

Budget — By on April 28, 2011 12:03 pm
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Measure Would Require Two-Thirds Vote Threshold

This week, Republican State Representatives Brett Geymann and Jim Morris introduced a bill (HB 189) that would require two-thirds of both houses of the legislature to approve the use of one-time revenues for recurring expenses.

As the name implies, one-time dollars are those only set to materialize a single time. And according to the bill, one-time dollars would include profits from “court settlements, the sale of state facilities [such as prisons], and the privatization of state operations.”

Geymann and Morris say their bill is a reaction to Gov. Jindals’s use of $474 million in one-time revenues from the proposed sale of three state prisons in his tentative $24.9 billion state operating budget for this fiscal year beginning July 1st.

Gov. Jindal wants to appropriate money from the sale of Louisiana prisons in Allen, Avoyelles, and Winn Parishes towards the state’s health care expenses.

Other opponents of this strategy such as Rep. Eddie Lambert (R-Prarieville) argue that “we’ve got to quit doing this… we need to start living within our means.” According to them, using one-time revenues for recurring expenses like health care will impede such fiscal progress. Their opposition also extends to using money from the state’s “rainy day” fund towards spending bills during last year’s session, which Jindal advocated.

Instead, Geymann, Morris, Lambert, and others propose spending cuts to permanently balance the budget. HB 189, if passed, would not apply to Gov. Jindal’s budget for this year, but would affect future budget resolutions as well.

According to House Speaker Jim Tucker (R-Terrytown), a two-thirds vote would essentially make it impossible for the state government to allocate one-time money towards recurring expenses. He believes the legislature should allow more “flexibility” in future situations.

With one of his recent blog posts, Jeffrey Sadow explains the constraints of this inflexibility in his opposition to HB 189. In his view, the recurring versus one-time is not so clear cut, and that this legislation categorizes revenue as one-time “just because analysts and politicians failed to see it coming.”

Sadow also takes issue with the inclusion of privatization under the definition of one-time money, arguing that the economic benefits of privatization extend for many years. To this end, Sadow contests, HB 189 could inadvertently dissuade attempts at privatization and streamlining in the future.

Jamison Beuerman is a contributing writer and policy analyst at the Pelican Institute for Public Policy. He can be contacted at jbeuerman@pelicaninstitute.org or followed on Twitter @jbeuerman.

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