Jindal Freezes Non-Essential State Agency Spending

BATON ROUGE (AP) — With Louisiana struggling through continued budget shortfalls, Gov. Bobby Jindal ordered a partial freeze Friday on state agency spending for travel, supplies, contracts and other operating services considered nonessential.

         The order covers the remaining seven months of the fiscal year that ends June 30.

         Louisiana has been borrowing hundreds of millions of dollars from treasury funds to pay expenses because state general fund revenue has been slow to arrive to keep the state's $25 billion budget on track.

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         In addition, a $1.2 billion budget gap is projected for next year, and lawmakers have yet to decide whether the state finished the last fiscal year with a surplus or a deficit.

         "To ensure that the state of Louisiana will not suffer a budget deficit … prudent money management practices dictate that the best interests of the citizens of the state of Louisiana will be served by implementing an expenditure freeze," Jindal says in the order.

         Notification of the spending freeze was included in a news release from the governor's budget office announcing plans to call a state revenue forecasting conference meeting next week to talk about state government finances.

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         The governor's order includes two pages of exemptions and allows Jindal's commissioner of administration, Kristy Nichols, to give exemptions on a case-by-case basis. It doesn't cover legislative or judicial spending or many of the functions overseen by statewide elected officials.

         Exemptions are included for spending on declared emergencies; items mandated by existing contracts, the constitution or court orders; travel for state marketing and promotion; and activities related to revenue collection.

         Much of the travel and many of the supplies at prisons and juvenile lock-ups, for state police, for state-run schools and for direct patient care were considered essential and won't be frozen.

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         Contracts "associated with the transformation of state government that lead to future savings" also were given a special exemption.

         Similar spending freezes have been issued in tight budget years. Jindal also ordered a limited hiring freeze in January, covering executive branch agencies and running through June 30. State elected officials and the Louisiana Legislature weren't covered by the hiring freeze.

         – by AP Reporter Melinda Deslatte


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