By Jourdan Moschitta
Rep. Mike Johnson, R-Bossier City, says he and fellow Republicans had a productive meeting with Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards over reforms with budgeting.
“Virtually everything is on the table,” Johnson said of the eight hours the House Republican delegation spent discussing changes to the upcoming 2016 state budget during the GOP retreat in Lafayette earlier this week.
Edwards joined the delegation to explain the budget crisis and the solutions, as he envisions them. The meeting was described by Shauna Sanford, the governor’s press secretary, as relaxed and friendly.
Johnson said that in terms of budget reform there was broad consensus among legislators to look into fiscal discipline (spending reductions) before looking at raising revenue.
Johnson said a component of looking into fiscal discipline is to consider making structural changes to Louisiana’s budgetary process, such as changing the way the budgeting is accomplished.
Johnson said there seemed to be broad agreement among the Republicans and, possibly, the Democrats that the right course of action is to pursue this approach.
Johnson said the piecemeal approach of taking partial corrective measures over a period of time has not served well, and the state cannot continue to do business as usual.
Johnson said legislators need to work with what he called a “realistic picture of what the budget looks like.”
Such a picture, he said, would increase transparency and ensure no numbers in the budget would be fudged.
Johnson gave an example of one such reform in higher education.
“Higher education leadership needs more stability with regards to the budget,” he said, also stating that it is irresponsible to give universities a set amount of funds and ask them to cut 25 percent of that during mid-year budget cuts.
“That isn’t healthy or responsible,”
More on budget reform will come with the start of the legislature’s special session Feb. 14 to consider how to cover more than three-quarters of a billion dollars in shortfalls for the current fiscal year.