Treasurer slams Jindal’s budget as unbalanced
BATON ROUGE (AP) — Louisiana Treasurer John Kennedy derided Gov. Bobby Jindal’s budget proposal Monday as unrealistic and unbalanced, likening it to running up credit card debt to pay the ongoing expenses of state government.
Kennedy predicted the state will face another round of midyear budget cuts if lawmakers approve the governor’s spending recommendations for the 2013-14 fiscal year, which begins July 1. He called his fellow Republican’s proposal “a fond illusion.”
“There’s a better way. It’s not complicated: don’t spend more than you take in, and when you do spend money, spend it on things you need, not things you simply want,” the treasurer wrote in a column.
Jindal’s chief budget architect, Commissioner of Administration Kristy Nichols, called the governor’s budget balanced.
She said Kennedy uses incorrect figures and estimates in his assessment, and that if the dollars criticized by the treasurer were removed, cuts would be required to health care and colleges.
“It’s easy to talk about rhetoric and to present no solutions,” Nichols said.
Kennedy said Jindal’s budget includes millions of dollars in “pretend” savings from an unfinished privatization of the LSU hospitals and anticipates “inflated prices” from property sales that won’t happen.
The treasurer assumes the administration is anticipating $800 million in savings from the LSU privatization plan, but Nichols said the reduction is actually $107 million. She said that even with the cut, current services would be maintained and the hospital system would be modernized.
“Not only are his numbers incorrect, but the fact of the matter is we have a plan that is a good plan for the public hospital system and the state,” she said.
Though none of the agreements are complete, Nichols said they will be in place by April.
For the property sales, Nichols said the price estimates are backed up by appraisals. She said prospective buyers have been identified for all tracts of land and buildings anticipated for sale.
Kennedy also criticized as a bad idea Jindal’s proposal to plug $60 million in savings from refinancing the state’s tobacco bonds into next year’s budget, much of it to help pay for the state’s free college tuition program called TOPS.
That criticism was echoed by three Republican state lawmakers, who called on Jindal on Monday to reverse plans to use the tobacco bond refinancing and other one-time sources of cash to pay for TOPS.
Reps. Cameron Henry of Metairie, Thomas Carmody of Shreveport and John Schroder of Covington said the moves would create a hole in the college scholarship program’s more than $200 million budget in later years when the piecemeal financing falls away.
“We are jeopardizing the future of TOPS with these accounting games,” Schroder said in a statement.
Without using such sources of financing, Nichols said further cuts would be needed to critical services.