LaPolitics by Maginnis: Despite double deficits, rainy day fund not an easy option
Even for legislators who have grown numb to annual revenue shortfalls, the double whammy of deficits recognized this week was hard to take. The Revenue Estimating Conference not only forecast a $303 million shortage of funds for the next fiscal year, it also said the current year budget, which ends June 30, has a $211 million hole in it. A ready answer lies in the state's Budget Stabilization Fund—commonly known as the "rainy day fund"—which held $647 million as of April 11. State law permits up to one-third of the fund, or about $216 million, to be tapped when the official forecast is lowered within a fiscal year. But Appropriations Committee Chairman Jim Fannin, D-Jonesboro, is not ready to draft a resolution to use the fund because he doubts two-thirds of the House would go along to send the measure to the Senate. "A number of Republicans won't vote for it," he says, and some Democrats would also withhold support "to spite the governor." Yet other legislators doubt there is that much entrenched opposition. "I think we should look at it," says Rep. Brett Geymann, R-Lake Charles, a leading fiscal hawk.
—The speculation over what's next for Scott Angelle, R-Breaux Bridge, a hot topic last year, is warming up again. The latest word from some close sources is that he is considering running for the Public Service Commission this fall against incumbent Jimmy Field. The Natural Resources secretary did not return a phone call for comment. The PSC District 2 would be attractive to the former St. Martin Parish president because 57% of it is on his side of the Atchafalaya, with Field's smaller base in the mostly white precincts of Baton Rouge. Already declared is former Lafayette TV weatherman Ed Roy, a former councilman, who has enlisted the fundraising help of respected oilman Paul Hilliard.
They said it: "We continue to make Mr. Benson a ward of the state." —Rep. Sam Jones, D-Franklin, opposing a tax break bill for the New Orleans Hornets, now owned by Tom Benson, who also owns the New Orleans Saints
(John Maginnis publishes LaPolitics Weekly, a newsletter on Louisiana politics, at LaPolitics.com.)
Today's poll question: Do you think legislators should use the rainy day fund to fill the $211 million budget deficit for the fiscal year ending June 30?
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