BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Gov. John Bel Edwards will propose a budget to lawmakers Friday that is a wish list of sorts, based on income projections that aren’t included in Louisiana’s official revenue forecast because Republican legislative leaders wouldn’t adopt them.
The Democratic governor will submit a 2020-21 spending plan that anticipates another $103 million will eventually be added to next year’s revenue forecast, and he’ll use that money to help pay for education financing increases he wants.
Edwards called the forecast adjustments — which haven’t been adopted — “the responsible thing to do” and confirmed that he had included them in the spending proposal his administration will unveil in a meeting of the joint House and Senate budget committee.
“It will be a spending plan that we give the Legislature that will be premised upon the adoption of a forecast,” he said Wednesday after speaking to the Louisiana Municipal Association.
The Legislature’s new Republican leaders, House Speaker Clay Schexnayder and Senate President Page Cortez, refused last week to support the income forecasts recommended by nonpartisan economists, which the Edwards administration sought to adopt.
Rather than $103 million more to spend next year, Schexnayder proposed to boost next year’s projections by $400,000, describing that as a more conservative approach. Cortez supported Schexnayder. But Commissioner of Administration Jay Dardenne, the governor’s chief budget adviser, rejected the idea, because the estimates the House speaker proposed weren’t crafted based on economists’ advice. With the three officials at odds, a new forecast couldn’t be adopted.
Edwards employed a similar approach to his budget proposal last year because of another income forecast dispute. He used dollars he expected legislative leaders to eventually include in the forecast, rather than the actual amounts available to spend under the law.
In addition to the $103 million, the governor’s budget proposal for next year also will include the spending of $25 million that is the subject of a dispute with Treasurer John Schroder.
Schroder, a Republican, has refused to transfer a similar amount of money from the state’s unclaimed property account to spend on general operating expenses this year and last year, even though lawmakers appropriated the money in the budget.
“We will include that just as we have in previous years,” the governor said.
Schroder has said his lawyers don’t believe the use of the unclaimed property money to pay for ongoing government expenses, a maneuver used for years by multiple governors and legislatures, is legal. Edwards intends to sue Schroder over the blocked fund transfer, saying Wednesday that the lawsuit is “going to happen pretty soon.”
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