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Jindal orders spending freeze on board per diems

MELINDA DESLATTE
Associated Press

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) - Looking to cut costs in cash-strapped Louisiana, Gov. Bobby Jindal on Friday ordered boards and commissions under his control to stop spending money on per diems - the dollars given to members for attending meetings,

Jindal issued the spending freeze only days after a review by the Louisiana Legislative Auditor's office tallied millions of dollars in spending on the nearly 500 panels created by law or executive order as the state faces continued budget shortfalls.

"Continuing to pay per diem causes a drain on the state general fund," the governor's executive order says.

More than $1 million was spent on per diems for boards and commissions in 2011 and nearly $1.5 million was budgeted for those costs in the just-ended 2012 fiscal year, according to the auditor's report.

Board members affected by the order can still receive reimbursement for their travel costs.

It wasn't clear Friday how many boards were covered by Jindal's order or how much money was estimated to be saved in the budget year that began July 1.

The order doesn't stop the spending for legislative meetings or for elected members of boards and commissions who are authorized by law to receive a per diem. Jindal's top budget adviser also is allowed to grant additional exemptions for cases of "extreme economic hardships."

Despite efforts to shrink the number of Louisiana's governing boards and commissions, the total of such panels is higher now than when Jindal took office in 2008. The auditor's report, released Monday, said that as of June 2012, the state had 492 boards and commissions created by law or executive order.

At least 277 of those panels pay per diems, salaries or travel for board members, costs that totaled nearly $5 million in the 2011 fiscal year and were budgeted for even more in the just-ended 2012 budget, the audit says.

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