A gaggle of state representatives, all of them Republican save for one independent, have asked state Attorney General Buddy Caldwell for an opinion on whether the 2012-13 state budget is unconstitutional "on multiple grounds." That would be the budget submitted by Gov. Bobby Jindal before the 2012 legislative session - a budget laden with accounting gimmicks and reliant on one-time, non-recurring revenue for recurring expenses, which is precisely why the group of lawmakers seeks Caldwell's opinion. Rep. Nancy Landry, R-Lafayette, is among the legislators seeking the AG opinion.
"Legislators are concerned whether Louisiana's state budget is constitutional and lawful," says Rep. Kirk Talbot, R-River Ridge and vice-chairman of the House Commerce Committee, in a press release announcing the legal query. "We are seeking guidance regarding whether exceeding the revenue forecast; use of contingency funds and one-time funds in the budget are lawful and constitutional. We hope to continue the efforts of legislators to ensure that our budget and budget process yield a result that best serves the needs of the people, families and businesses of Louisiana."
We can't help but wonder if this is a perilous (albeit necessary) move by the solons, in light of the governor's well-known penchant for dispensing punishment - ouster from prestigous committees, loss of chairmanships, etc. - against lawmakers who fail to smile that wan, sycophantic smile.
But it also conforms to a trend of state lawmakers demonstrating and acting publicly on their unease with the way Jindal has run state government. A related initiative involving some of the same lawmakers as Talbot's group and evidently entirely Republican among the ranks of elected officials, the Budget Reform Campaign, has been making noise about promoting budget reform - especially ending the use of one-time dollars for recurring expenses, something Jindal is famous for - via constitutional amendments. The group has formed a political action committee managed by state Rep. Simone Champagne, a Jeanerette Republican.
The announcement by Talbot et al comes on the heels of the governor's budget advisors announcing late last week that the 2013-2014 budget, which begins July 1, 2013, already faces a staggering $963 million shortfall. That's 96 percent of a billion dollars, kids, so let's just call it a billion.
Check out the Budget Reform Campaign's website here.