Senators debate using rainy day fund or deep cuts to balance budget


Posted on May 28, 2012 at 7:08 AM

Updated Monday, May 28 at 7:22 AM
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BATON ROUGE -- With health care and higher education in Louisiana facing massive, controversial cuts, state senators will now take a shot at passing a budget, while trying to soften the impact.

One way to do it is to tap into the state's rainy day fund, something Senator JP Morrell says would be a quick fix.

"The rainy day fund could solve the issue overnight. The amount of money we could pull down is almost the amount of money that they stripped out," said Morrell.

But the idea of tapping into the reserves is stirring strong debate. Senator Danny Martiny says lawmakers must be cautious.

"It seems like every year we have a different rainy day. So, I think if we tap into it this year, we can't next year," Martiny.

But there are other options. Clancy DuBos, Eyewitness News political analyst, expects to see senators use the same strategy they implemented during last year's budget battle.

"Peg the one time monies to some one time expenditures that they can find and identify, specifically in this budget," said DuBos, "free up some recurring revenues for recurring expenses and then try to soften the blows to higher ed and health care." 

"At the end of the day, there will be cuts," said Morrell. "I don't think the senate will be able to restore every single penny the house cut, because some of it is simply money we don't have, as far as a recurring expense with one-time money."

But exactly how things will play out is still very much up in the air. And with time running out on the 2012 session, lawmakers could be in store for a dramatic finish.

"The legislature is very much like the NBA. You can tune in with about four minutes left in the fourth quarter, and you'll see all the action you want," said Martiny.

By law, the legislative session must wrap up next Monday, giving senators a week to finish business and balance budget.