Late in the 2008 legislative session, four conservative state representatives licked their wounds one night at Walk-Ons, a sports bar near Louisiana State University.
“We had just gotten our ass kicked on a lot of things,” one of them, state Rep. John Schroder, R-Mandeville, remembered Thursday. “The left hand didn’t know what the right hand was doing. We decided we would come back better prepared on the budget.”
The four grew into a dozen the following year, and they met regularly for tutorials on budgeting state money and ways to cut government spending. In 2012 they had attracted enough support to formally organize and name themselves the Budget Reform Campaign. They criticized Gov. Bobby Jindal from the right, for spending money they said the state didn’t have. The press soon dubbed them the “Fiscal Hawks.”
During the annual legislative session that ended Thursday, the Fiscal Hawks emerged as a powerful group – powerful enough to force Jindal and Senate President John Alario, R-Westwego, to back down and accept key changes in how the state will spend its money next year and years to come. Those changes, the Fiscal Hawks say, will produce more honest budgets and lessen the likelihood that the state will continue having to make debilitating spending cuts midway through the fiscal year, something that has happened during each of Jindal’s five years in office.
The 30 or so Fiscal Hawks played a decisive role this year because they formed an unlikely alliance with about 40 House Democrats, giving them a working majority in the 105-member House. The alliance, however, didn’t sit well with fellow Republicans who wanted to revel in constituting a House and Senate majority for the first time since Reconstruction. Fiscal Hawks and Republicans allied with Jindal engaged in private squabbling over the budget during the past several days.
This story was originally published by The Lens (thelensnola.org), an independent, nonprofit newsroom serving New Orleans.