BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Nineteen members of the Louisiana House, nearly all Republicans, asked the attorney general Monday whether the state's budget uses unconstitutional sources of financing. The move lodges a direct challenge to Gov. Bobby Jindal's budgeting tactics.
The request sent to Attorney General Buddy Caldwell is the latest strategy in a continuing struggle between a group of conservative House Republicans and the GOP governor over the use of one-time, piecemeal funding to pay for continuing government programs.
"Legislators are concerned whether Louisiana's state budget is constitutional and lawful," Rep. Kirk Talbot, R-River Ridge, said in a statement.
Talbot, usually a Jindal ally, filed the opinion request with Caldwell's office on behalf of a list of 18 Republicans and one lawmaker without party affiliation in the House.
A group of conservative House Republicans who call themselves "fiscal hawks" have criticized the patchwork funding as inappropriate, saying it's irresponsible to use money that isn't certain to appear year after year. But they have been unsuccessful in blocking use of the money, including about $270 million for ongoing expenses in the fiscal year that began July 1.
The Jindal administration said public colleges and health services would have faced devastating cuts without the funding, and a majority of lawmakers agreed to use the money to stave off the reductions. Senators voted unanimously for a budget that included the patchwork financing.
The dollars come from the sale of state-owned buildings, loan repayments, legal settlements, unused fund balances and other available pools of financing.
Talbot's letter notes that the Louisiana Constitution and state law require a balanced budget and say legislative appropriations can't exceed the state's official revenue forecast. He said the current 2012-13 budget spends about $240 million above what was recognized by the state's income estimating panel, and he claims that's a violation of state law.