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Thursday, December 07, 2006

He says it's about legalities

Gov. Kathleen Blanco used a lunchtime speech in Shreveport Tuesday to criticize Senate President Don Hines for using “personal politics.”

Last week Blanco blocked Hines’ efforts to get the state to pay for half of a sugarcane syrup mill planned for his hometown area. Hines vowed he would “get even.”

Some would say he did Tuesday when he was the sole dissenter in recognizing an $827 million surplus from the 2005-06 budget. A unanimous vote among the four-member Revenue Estimating Committee is required in order to spend the surplus.

Hines released a statement to the media the next day to clarify his vote:

"The process for establishing the prior year budget balance is detailed in R.S. 39.75. The state law is clear and not open to misinterpretation.

“Among other things, the law requires the Commissioner of Administration and the Legislative Auditor to submit a report reflecting the audited prior year budget balance to the Joint Legislative Committee on the Budget after the Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR) is published. The CAFR has not been published. The report has not been submitted to the budget committee.

"The process for establishing the prior year budget surplus was first detailed in state law in 2001 and tightened further in 2002, at the urging of then State Representative and current Commissioner of Administration Jerry Luke LeBlanc. The move to the defined, detailed process was in response to repeated problems with the old system that often resulted in a prior year budget surplus that was inaccurate and misleading.

"The Revenue Estimating Conference does have the constitutional authority to certify state revenue as recurring or non-recurring. However, that constitutional authority does not include ignoring state law, a state law enacted at the urging of two current members of the conference.

"Now more than ever, it is imperative that our actions be prudent. Ignoring state law cannot be considered prudent action. My position on this matter is not about personalities. It is not about formalities. It is about legalities."


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