Jay Dardenne at Press Club 061217

Commissioner of Administration Jay Dardenne told the Press Club of Baton Rouge that he thinks the legislative impasse on the state budget will resolved soon.

Advocate Photo by Mark Ballard

Commissioner of Administration Jay Dardenne remains optimistic that the state budget impasse in the Louisiana Legislature will be resolved soon.

“I am hoping and I believe that legislators don’t want to be here next week,” Dardenne told the Press Club of Baton Rouge on Monday. “They don’t want to face the unprecedented reality of July 1 rolling around and not having a budget, so I think there is going to be room to try to get things done.”

The Legislature is in special session through June 19, trying to pass a state spending plan for the fiscal year that begins July 1. Lawmakers were unable to approve a state budget during the two months they were in regular session and were required to return to Baton Rouge to do so.

Failure to pass a budget would mean that state government would shut down.

Negotiations broke down in the final minutes of the regular session on Thursday when the House didn’t vote on the Senate-passed version of House Bill 1.

A key disagreement was how much money would be held back – and just what procedure would be used to do so – in case revenues fell short of covering the promises state government had made. Revenue shortfalls have repeatedly, over the past nine years, required drastic service cuts midway through the fiscal year in order to balance the annual budgets.

The House initially wanted to reduce spending on services by about $200 million less than what money was projected to be available through the fiscal year. During negotiations with the Senate, the House cut that amount in half to $100 million.

The Senate proposed appropriating all the projected funds, but also including language that urged the executive branch agencies to hold back spending about $50 million until lawmakers had a better idea of how much money would be available. Gov. John Bel Edwards agreed with the Senate plan, which also included pay raises for state workers and full funding for higher education.

The House’s insistence on cutting spending now, rather than holding back already budgeted dollars, as the Senate proposes, is “the biggest misunderstanding” of the session, Dardenne said.

The law precludes the use of the unused dollars unless the Legislature reconvenes or waits until next year, he said.

“It’s very frustrating,” Dardenne said, adding that the administration it talking to as many members as possible about the procedures.

Dardenne, a Republican, is known for writing witty poems and he recited one he called “Ode to the 2017 Session.”

“It started with lots of hot air and ended with a bust;

No one around the Capitol could determine who to trust.

On the day the Fighting Tigers won their biggest game,

the strategy in government was to figure out who to blame.

There was nary a walk off homer,

Nor a sacrificial bunt.

The Legislature met for 45 days,

And all they did was punt.

So we gather again in Baton Rouge,

to wail and moan and jaw;

Let’s just get this over

And head to Omaha.”

Follow Mark Ballard on Twitter, @MarkBallardCnb.