Gov. Bobby Jindal’s administration reports a $178.5 million budget surplus for the state fiscal year that ended June 30.Instead they are being snarky about it.
But the Legislature’s financial advisers are questioning a new element in the equation used to produce the rosy picture, and state Treasurer John Kennedy said Friday the administration is skewing the real state financial picture, which isn’t as pretty.
“If we use the methodology we have always used, we don’t have a surplus. We have a $141 million deficit,” Kennedy said.
The administration late Thursday announced the $178.5 million surplus from last fiscal year. It is required to report what is called the “general fund balance” to the Legislature’s budget committee in October. The announcement did not disclose how the figure was derived or the source of the leftover cash.
(Jindal's Commissioner of Administration Kristy Nichols) said the money is from “a variety of funds.”So this is money that has "always been available" but for the fact that "at least for the last 12 years" science had not devised a way to observe it. It's like dark matter, basically. (Wait. Do "non-evolutionary biologists" have alternative views of theoretical physics, also? That might be important here.)
The money has not previously been counted by the Revenue Estimating Conference, “but it appears they have always been available … at least for the last 12 years,” Nichols said.
Nichols later slammed Kennedy for questioning the surplus number.
“I’m surprised the treasurer is not reporting this. The treasurer’s obligated to see that revenue available is reported to the public,” she said. “The money is available, and it’s cash on hand.
“He should probably do a review of the accounts to ensure there are no more outstanding revenues he is not reporting,” Nichols said.
Anyway I hope they're right about this. Now that they've found the hidden money, they can start putting it back into all those places they've been ripping it out of the budget. I'm not the first to say so.
Meanwhile, a state legislator already is eyeing the surplus funds to help the ailing finances of the state Office of Group Benefits — Louisiana’s health insurance program.
“It is questionable whether there is actually a surplus, but should it be determined that there actually is $178.5 million, it should go toward the manufactured crisis created by this administration,” said state Rep. Kenny Havard, referring to Jindal’s handling of Group Benefits, which insures some 230,000 state employees, teachers, retirees and their dependents.
If the surplus is nonrecurring revenue, it can be used only to boost the Budget Stabilization Fund, to improve state retirement system liabilities and to decrease debt, which would free up state money for Group Benefits, said Havard, R-St. Francisville.
I'm sure they'll get right on that.