Budgets are under review at State Capitol

Advocate staff photo by RICHARD ALAN HANNON -- The state Senate Committee on Finance is meeting Friday to continue its review of the state's $25 billion spending plan for the budget year that begins July 1. Chairman Jack Donahue, R-Mandeville, center, talks with state Sen. Norby Chabert, R-Houma, left, during testimony on House Bill 1 Thursday. State Sen. Ronnie Johns, R-Sulphur, is at right. Show caption
Advocate staff photo by RICHARD ALAN HANNON -- The state Senate Committee on Finance is meeting Friday to continue its review of the state's $25 billion spending plan for the budget year that begins July 1. Chairman Jack Donahue, R-Mandeville, center, talks with state Sen. Norby Chabert, R-Houma, left, during testimony on House Bill 1 Thursday. State Sen. Ronnie Johns, R-Sulphur, is at right.

With the window closing on the 2013 legislative session, the Senate Finance Committee is skipping a three day weekend.

The committee’s chairman, state Sen. Jack Donahue, declared Friday a work day. In a nod to May’s busy slate of high school and college graduations, he gave legislators the rest of the weekend off.

First up Friday will be a meeting of the Joint Legislative Committee on the Budget, which is looking at retirement system budgets and other weighty issues.

The operating budgets of the four state retirement systems for the coming year are up for review and approval. State law requires the annual oversight of the Louisiana State Employees Retirement System, the Teachers Retirement System of Louisiana, the Louisiana School Employees Retirement System and the Louisiana State Police Retirement Systems.

The state budget allocates funding for employer contributions as well as dollars required to fulfill a constitutional obligation to pay off older system liabilities. The four systems currently have a combined unfunded accrued liability of $18.5 billion - more than half of it in teachers.

Once the Joint Budget meeting is over on the House side of the State Capitol, finance committee members will return to the Senate side to tackle the state budget package.

The committee already is poring over the House’s changes to a $25 billion budget that funds health care, higher education and other public services.

They will dive even further into the state spending plan Friday and take a particular look at funding for prisons, coastal protection, health care and public schools.

State Rep. Katrina Jackson, D-Monroe, said earlier in the week that she hopes the Senate shows independence and embraces the House’s version rather than tossing it out in favor of Gov. Bobby Jindal’s draft.

The committee’s initial review was that House members concocted a budget filled with made up numbers, pay day loan-style deals and dollars that look a lot like the ones they criticized the governor for using.