Jindal strips items from next year's $25B budget; $4 million for developmentally disabled scratched
BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Gov. Bobby Jindal removed $4 million slated to expand a program that provides at-home services to the developmentally disabled from next year's $25.4 billion budget, as part of dozens of line-item vetoes issued Friday.
Many of the vetoes stripped funding that lawmakers had added to the 2013-14 budget for disabled services, including dollars for a family support program, assistive technology services and regional resource centers to help people access services.
After he saw the vetoes, Sen. Dan Claitor, R-Baton Rouge, issued his assessment on Twitter: "Wow?? Governor sticks it to the disabled community. Match up the line item cuts to (the budget bill) and see what you get. Yikes."
To explain his vetoes, Jindal said lawmakers didn't include enough funding to pay for an expected increase in the use of existing Medicaid services for the fiscal year that begins July 1. That means the state cannot afford to put new money into other health programs, the Republican governor said.
Also cut from the budget was money for arts grants, funding to continue operations of certain children's health clinics and a requirement that local emergency preparedness offices get a share of a federal emergency management grant.
Jindal removed language requiring the state Department of Education to cut its contracts by $2 million and mandating the state spend money on a specific type of aquatic weed control device. An attempt to redirect $2.5 million from a state economic development fund to other items was stripped, along with a bid to add jobs to the state's elderly affairs office.
But the biggest cuts fell on measures to boost funding for the disabled. Nearly half of the governor's 31 line-item vetoes eliminated dollars that lawmakers had set aside for programs for people with disabilities.
Lawmakers had been sympathetic to requests they received during public testimony for dollars for at-home and community-based services for people who can't entirely take care of themselves and for families struggling to cope with disabled children.
Jindal cut $250,000 that lawmakers had included for the Louisiana Assistive Technology Access Network, or LATAN, which works with disabled people to find technology that can help them work, study or cope with daily life.
The governor also removed the $4 million that lawmakers added to include 200 more people in a program that pays for at-home and community-based care for the disabled.
Family members of developmentally disabled children who need around-the-clock care said 10,000 people are on a waiting list for services. They show up each year with children in wheelchairs, packing committee rooms and pleading with lawmakers to shrink the waiting list.
After using his line-item veto power, Jindal signed off on the remaining spending plans and praised lawmakers' work, saying they passed "a fiscally responsible budget that is good for the people of Louisiana."
He divided up remaining cuts that lawmakers told the governor to dole out to agencies.
The governor also signed into law Friday several pieces of legislation that were needed to keep the budget in balance.
He approved plans for a three-year tax amnesty program, under which delinquent taxpayers can pay overdue taxes with penalties and interest reduced or eliminated. The budget anticipates $200 million from the program will be collected in the first year.
He signed new limits on tax break programs included in the final budget compromise.
Caps will be placed on a program that pays vendors a percentage of the sales taxes they collect and remit to the state. The state's Enterprise Zone program will no longer allow credits to big-box retailers in the targeted disadvantaged zone and will require companies to provide full-time jobs and hire a larger number of area workers to receive the credits.
Meanwhile, the governor also signed bills that change the budget process and limit the patchwork financing that can be used for ongoing programs. That legislation was negotiated among the House and Senate to win final passage of the budget.