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The budget negotiations in Louisiana face an additional hurdle due to the spending ceiling

(Collin Richie)

Gov. John Bel Edwards and state lawmakers may have to clear additional hurdles this year to spend all the money at their disposal over the next 15 months. The extra steps could make it difficult to immediately allocate additional funds to universities and colleges, road works and coastal rehabilitation, as the governor has suggested.

Louisiana is encountering constitutionally-imposed spending caps in the current fiscal cycle and next fiscal year beginning July 1. If lawmakers want to spend beyond those limits, they must vote to do so by a two-thirds majority in the House and Senate during the legislative session that begins next month. Normally such tuning is not required.

“A two-thirds majority is always questionable down here,” Senate Finance Committee Chairman Mack “Bodi” White told R-Central after a budget hearing on Wednesday.

The legislature is dominated by Republicans, who are generally opposed to large increases in government spending. Reaching a two-thirds majority in both chambers could be difficult, but rejecting the cap would also have consequences.

It could delay the allocation of millions of dollars, much of which the governor has proposed going towards transportation projects and higher education.

“There’s a reason we have a spending cap,” said Jack McFarland, leader of the Conservative group in the House of Representatives, R-Jonesboro. “We need to sit down and really determine if that’s in the best interests of taxpayers.”

Louisiana State Senate staffers estimate the state has the ability to spend approximately $460 million more this year and $500 million more in the next fiscal cycle before hitting spending limits that would require the additional votes. That’s far less than the more than a billion additional dollars that the state can spend in the next few months.

Read the full story on the state budget negotiations Louisiana Illuminator.