BATON ROUGE — State Attorney General Jeff Landry has filed a lawsuit against Governor John Bel Edwards over four-million-dollars in funding.
Landry said the governor improperly blocked the money that was intended for the Department of Justice, Landry's office.
According to Landry, a percentage of money recovered by the Louisiana Department of Justice (LADOJ) goes into an escrow account. Landry said the LADOJ must submit a J-2 Voucher to reclassify the funds in order to spend the funds.
Landry claimed the Governor’s Division of Administration has "engaged in a politically-motivated, arbitrary, and capricious game to delay approval of LADOJ J-2’s – thus, blocking the LADOJ’s access to funds."
“By playing petty partisan politics, the Governor is jeopardizing the operations of the Louisiana Department of Justice," Landry said.
Governor Edwards said the money should be put in the state's general fund to help with budget deficits.
"The law clearly states that this money does not belong to the Department of Justice, and I am more than willing to defend that in court,” Gov. Edwards said.
Gov. Edwards said the money in question, $3.98 million, comes from a 2014 pharmaceutical settlement. Edwards said the money should have been transferred by the treasurer to the Over Collections Fund and then to the State General Fund, according to laws at that time (Act 420 of 2013 Regular Session).
MORE: See a pdf of Act 420
Per Act 420, it should not have been deposited into the attorney general’s escrow account or used for the attorney general’s expenses, Gov. Edwards said.
“Jeff Landry is going to great lengths at the taxpayer’s expense to protect an escrow account that doesn’t belong to his department while the rest of state government is taking a spending cut," Gov. Edwards said.
"Only Jeff Landry thinks he should be shielded from any spending cuts while students are at risk of losing TOPS, while higher education is at risk of taking a cut or while lifesaving health care services are in jeopardy."
Landry claims his office complied with the 2013 Louisiana Act 420, and argued that the 2016 Louisiana Act 601 "terminated any continuing obligations related to 2013 La. Act 420 by declaring any outstanding transfers arising from 'null and void and of no further effect.'"
“While John Bel Edwards attempts to fleece the taxpayers with tax increases and bigger spending, I will continue to streamline departments and cut waste,” Landry said. “I will continue to respect the will of the Legislature; and, if necessary, further petition the court to correct the Governor’s irresponsible and unlawful actions.”
A copy of the petition may be found at http://www.agjefflandry.com/Article/2400/5.