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Lawmakers seek injunction against Jindal budget

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Associated Press

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) - Two Jefferson Parish lawmakers on Monday asked a judge to block the use of patchwork financing in next year's budget, toughening their legal challenge against Gov. Bobby Jindal's budgeting tactics.

Republican Reps. Kirk Talbot and Cameron Henry filed an amended petition to their original lawsuit that asked for the current 2012-13 budget to be declared unconstitutional because it uses one-time money to pay for ongoing programs and services.

The amended lawsuit claims the same constitutional problems with Jindal's proposed $24.8 billion budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1 and seeks an injunction against the use of such piecemeal financing before lawmakers vote on the spending recommendations.

"After looking at the administration's budget for the upcoming fiscal year, it is clear that it contains the same constitutional issues as the current fiscal year budget that prompted our lawsuit," Talbot, R-River Ridge, said in a statement.

No hearing date was immediately set by Judge Tim Kelley of Baton Rouge.

The lawsuit is part of an ongoing dispute between conservative House Republicans nicknamed the "fiscal hawks" and the GOP governor over Jindal's approach to crafting annual spending plans for the state. The governor's proposals traditionally form the base of each year's budget.

The lawsuit says this year's $25 billion budget is unconstitutional because it spends $240 million more from the state general fund than the amount recognized by the state's income forecasting panel and because it doesn't follow constitutional limits on spending money deemed "nonrecurring."

Talbot and Henry also take issue in the lawsuit with the budget using dollars that haven't materialized, like $35 million from the sale or lease of the New Orleans Adolescent Hospital and $56 million in property insurance claims.

One-time dollars in this year's budget come from items such as state property sales, loan repayments, legal settlements and unused fund balances.

In his spending proposal for the upcoming 2013-14 fiscal year, Jindal again uses similar financing methods tied to fund shifts, lease arrangements and property sales that haven't yet happened. The governor's budget proposal plugs $489 million in the piecemeal funding into public colleges.

The Jindal administration has said that without those dollars, state officials would be forced to make unnecessary cuts to higher education and health care services. The governor has defended the budget tactics as constitutional and repeatedly approved by lawmakers.

The fiscal hawks say it's irresponsible to use money that isn't certain to appear year after year and claim it causes perpetual budget shortfalls. But they have been unsuccessful in persuading enough of their colleagues to block use of the money.

Named as defendants in the lawsuit are the state, Attorney General Buddy Caldwell and Treasurer John Kennedy.

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