House Backs Use of Rainy Day Fund
The Louisiana House backed a limited use of the state's "rainy day" fund Monday to help stave off some budget cuts, as the House and Senate edged closer to a final compromise on state spending.

The time for a final deal was growing tight. The legislative session must end Thursday, and the new budget year begins on July 1.

The House vote to use $86 million from the fund came after House Speaker Jim Tucker and Appropriations Chairman Jim Fannin - amid pressure from the Senate - reversed their staunch opposition to tapping it.

"By this vote today, we are telling the Senate what we are willing to do," said Fannin, D-Jonesboro.

Behind-the-scenes negotiations continue, and the outcome will determine the depth of budget cuts for public colleges, health services, state parks, tourism and arts programs and agriculture services in the 2009-10 fiscal year. Also being negotiated is the fate of the pet projects lawmakers want funded in their local districts.

What both the House and Senate agree on is using $86 million from the rainy day fund for the upcoming budget year and $74 million from an expired insurance grant fund.

Senators also want to delay a planned tax break, but the House is expected to reject that proposal Tuesday. A majority of House members and Gov. Bobby Jindal oppose the measure.

The Senate also wants to take out more money from the rainy day fund and sock part of it away for two subsequent years when the state's budget problems are expected to worsen. The House rejected that plan.

Several House members complained about the secrecy of the budget negotiations, saying they were being forced to vote on the plans piecemeal with little idea what House leaders were negotiating on their behalf.

"I'm not necessarily against Rep. Fannin's plan. I just don't know what the hell it is," said Rep. Sam Jones, D-Franklin.

Despite the complaints, the House voted 101-1 to back the rainy day fund legislation.

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On the Net:

House Concurrent Resolution 236 can be found at www.legis.state.la.us