LAFAYETTE, La (KLFY) – Last week, the legislature finally closed the gap in the state budget for the 2016-2017 fiscal year.
Legislators decided to use $99 million of the rainy day fund to satisfy the $304 million deficit.
“It’s going to be an ongoing saga, I know it has for the last four or five years,” said State Representative, Terry Landry.
Members of the house debated for about a week and half over how to close the gap.
“The governor identified $119 million of rainy day funds,” said Rep. Landry, however, legislator’s only wanted to take $99 million.
“I think the controversy was most legislators wanted to use the fund, it was what dollar amount,” said Senator Fred Mills. “$119,000,000 was the maximum you can use. I think some legislators said ‘make more cuts and then we’ll decide on what that number is.’ I think other groups said ‘listen we’re 3 months left to the budget, lets use the whole fund,'” explained Sen. Mills.
Sen. Mills says the rainy day fund has been around since 1991. Its sole purpose is to be utilized during emergency situations.
“In a situation where there’s a budget deficit, the legislature can tap into that fund and use one-third of the balance of the fund,” said Sen. Mills.
It’s a fund that’s been tapped into numerous times before, according to Rep. Landry.
“It had been utilized in the last 5 years in the previous administration to the tune of $500,000,000,” said Rep. Landry.
Both legislators say they were for using the max amount Gov. John Bel Edwards was requesting.
Since house members agreed to only use $99 million of the rainy day fund, Sen. Mills says they won’t have to make as many cuts as intended.
“The vast majority of the rest of the cuts will come from healthcare,” said Sen. Mills. “Education was spared, K-12 was spared, rural hospitals was spared.”
Moving forward, Rep. Landry says the state has to figure out how to continue funding government services.
“I think the revenue estimating conference has realized that we’re going to be looking at $400,000,000 the next fiscal year which starts July 1st,” said Rep. Landry.