AG refuses to enter debate over Gov. Jindal's budget tactics - FOX 8 WVUE New Orleans News, Weather, Sports

AG refuses to enter debate over Gov. Jindal's budget tactics

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BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) - Attorney General Buddy Caldwell's office isn't lodging an opinion about whether Gov. Bobby Jindal's budgeting tactics are in line with the state constitution.

A letter was sent this week to Rep. Kirk Talbot, R-River Ridge, declining to rule on his question of whether the state budget uses unconstitutional sources of financing. The questions were posed by Talbot and 18 other members of the Louisiana House who criticize Jindal's use of one-time, piecemeal funding to pay for continuing government programs.

Assistant Attorney General Richard McGimsey said the attorney general's office won't render an opinion since the office would be required to defend the budget in court if a lawsuit was filed challenged it.

"While your opinion request raises issues regarding the legality of the state budget, all laws passed by the legislature are presumed constitutional and it is the role of the Attorney General to defend the constitutionality of such laws," McGimsey wrote to Talbot, in a letter released Wednesday.

He also said the attorney general's office doesn't generally offer an opinion when a lawsuit appears imminent, which McGimsey said seems likely in the budget dispute.

The refusal to render an opinion keeps the Republican Caldwell from wading into a debate that has divided members of the GOP.

Talbot and the other House members filed their request for guidance from the attorney general's office in mid-November. The request was the latest strategy in a continuing struggle between a group of conservative House Republicans, calling themselves "fiscal hawks," and the GOP governor.

The lawmakers have criticized the patchwork funding as inappropriate, saying it's irresponsible to use money that isn't certain to appear year after year. But they have been unsuccessful in blocking use of the money, including about $270 million for ongoing expenses in the current budget year.

The Jindal administration said public colleges and health services would have faced devastating cuts without the funding, and a majority of lawmakers agreed to use the money to stave off the reductions. Senators voted unanimously for a budget that included the patchwork financing.

The dollars come from the sale of state-owned buildings, loan repayments, legal settlements, unused fund balances and other available pools of financing.

(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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