Next year's budget gap pegged at $963 million - KPLC 7 News, Lake Charles, Louisiana

State budget advisors: $963 million budget gap projected next year

The Legislature's joint money panel met Friday morning and got a glimpse at the revenue outlook for next fiscal year.

Gov. Bobby Jindal's budget advisors told members of the money panel, made up of both House and Senate members, that the state is short $963 million to continue running all existing programs and account for inflationary growth in the budget year that begins July 1.

The Associated Press reports that Barry Dusse, director of the Office of Planning and Budget, said more than one-third of the gap, about $355 million, is tied to a drop in federal Medicaid financing that also created a deficit this year.

According to the wire service, another slice of the shortfall, at least $164 million, includes inflation costs, merit raises for state employees and other items that lawmakers haven't necessarily funded in recent years.

More than $250 million reportedly involves the loss of 1-time dollars that paid for continuing programs.

Rep. Brett Geymann, R-Moss Bluff, a member of the House Appropriations Committee, said that one of the reasons the projected shortfall is so high is that the state continues to use one-time money. Geymann has long been a critic of the use of one-time funds.

"Right now, to begin with, we're about $300 million short since we have to replace the non-recurring money we used last year to balance the budget. Then, you add the rising costs of doing business … labor, retirement, insurance all are going up, all are adding to the cost of keeping the same level of service. Also, the federal match for Medicaid has been reduced. You couple that with the problem of using non-recurring money and you have a budget mess," Geymann said.

Geymann said he and some other lawmakers are advocating for a change in how the state's budget process works.

"We believe we should spend our dollars on critical services first, make other adjustments, possibly make reductions – but we must not continue to rely on non-recurring monies," he said.

Geymann said that he is worried about deeper cuts to already strapped institutions like Moss Regional Medical Center and McNeese State University.

"I would be worried. I am worried. We just have to work on this budget process. We have to change the way we balance our money," he said.

The Joint Legislative Committee on the Budget (JLCB) is made up of the members of the House Committee on Appropriations, the Senate Finance Committee, and the Chairmen of the House Committee on Ways and Means and the Senate Revenue and Fiscal Affairs Committee.

KPLC's Olivia Vidal will have more on this on later editions.

Copyright 2012 KPLC. All rights reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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