Jindal: House budget threatens public safety

LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC) - Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal said cuts made to the state budget by the House Appropriations Committee last week are too deep and may put public safety at risk.

Jindal made the comments on Sunday in an interview with KPLC 7 News.

The governor said the Appropriations Committee's budget plan will hurt healthcare and education and could lead to state inmates being set free because prisons would be forced closed.

"Under this budget, they would actually close five prisons and that would result in prisoners being released to threaten public safety," said Jindal. "There's no need for them to make these kinds of dramatic, drastic cuts."

Jindal said he also had serious concerns over cuts that could force the Department of Public Safety to lay off state troopers for the first time in Louisiana's history.

The governor said the budget proposal he outlined at the start of the session makes the most sense.

"We've balanced the budget without raising taxes, without cutting healthcare, without cutting education," said Jindal. "Unfortunately, the House has got a budget that doesn't make sense."

The budget battle leaves Jindal facing off with members from his own party.

Republican State Representative Brett Geymann, Lake Charles, said the Jindal Administration is "overreacting" to the changes made to the budget in the House Appropriations Committee.

"The reaction has been the fear that all these state prisons are going to close, the sky is falling," said Geymann, who sits on the House Appropriations Committee. "Essentially, the governor presented a budget to our committee which was not in balance because he gave us a budget that was based on contingencies."

Geymann said the governor's budget relies too heavily on money that may not materialize. Some have called it "funny money."

For example, Jindal's budget includes money that cannot be used unless state lawmakers and/or voters approve certain pieces of legislation.

Geymann said the House Appropriations Committee redirected $82 million from the state's economic development mega fund and ordered $139 million in cuts to state agencies.

Included in those cuts, is $27.5 million to the Department of Corrections, five percent of that agency's budget. Corrections Secretary Jimmy LeBlanc said such cuts would force him to close five prisons, including the C. Paul Phelps Correctional Center in DeQuincy, and lay off prison employees.

"If you can make a five percent reduction in the Department of Corrections and it causes a closure of five prisons, then perhaps we have a deeper problem," said Geymann.

The full House is expected to take up the Appropriations Committee's budget this week.

The governor said he is confident his administration and lawmakers will come to an agreement that satisfies everyone and makes up for the $1.6 billion shortfall the state is facing.

To read the budgets proposed by the governor and by the House Appropriations Committee, click here.

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