State Rep. Brett Geymann asked Baton Rouge Republicans on Tuesday to stand with him in convincing Gov. Bobby Jindal to take a different approach to the state budget.
“I hope I didn’t offend anybody by calling out the Republican Party, but we need to stand up,” Geymann told the Republican Party of East Baton Rouge Parish.
The party invited Geymann and two other Republican legislators — state Reps. Hunter Greene and Valarie Hodges — to lunch at Café Americain off Jefferson Highway.
On the menu was the failure of some Republicans’ efforts to purge nonrecurring dollars from the $25.6 billion state operating budget for the fiscal year that starts July 1. Side dishes included a request for Geymann, Greene and Hodges to tally up the number of Christians serving in the Louisiana House and the Louisiana Senate.
Geymann, R-Lake Charles, and other self-described fiscal conservatives clashed with the Republican governor this past session on how to balance the state spending plan.
At issue was whether to use one-time dollars to pay expenses that must be met year after year.
State revenue is failing to generate enough dollars to keep services on the state’s tab at their current levels. To fill in the funding gaps, Jindal proposed selling property and gathering dollars from funds scattered across state government. Because the dollars will materialize only once, they are known as one-time money.
Geymann, Greene, Hodges and others argued it was irresponsible to rely on one-time money to pay expenses that must be met every year. They fought to purge $267 million in nonrecurring dollars from the state budget.
The Jindal administration countered that purging the money would result in deep cuts to health care and higher education. In the end, the governor got his way with a budget balanced, in part, with one-time money.
Geymann characterized the proposed state operating budget Tuesday as shameful.
For example, he said, the state is taking $20 million in cash from the New Orleans convention center and then borrowing money through the state construction budget to repay the funds.
“Google ‘money laundering’ when you get a chance,” Geymann told his audience.
Greene, R-Baton Rouge, said the Jindal administration needs to understand that the practice of using one-time money has to stop. “This has been a recurring problem,” Greene said.
Hodges, R-Denham Springs, said she and other legislators have to stand firm on their principles. “All it takes for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing,” she said.
Hodges said she naively thought serving in the Legislature would be easy compared with her missionary work outside the United States.
She said she soon learned that the corner of the House chamber reserved for the governor’s staff can be a heated area, especially when Jindal’s wishes are not being met.
“You cannot imagine the kind of pressure that you go through,” Hodges said.
Opening the discussion up for audience questions sparked a query about the number of Christians in the Legislature.
Greene joked that it seems like there are not many some days.
“I think there’s a lot of us that are. That’s encouraging,” said Geymann, a Sunday school teacher.