Lawmaker admits his $26 million cut was to 'get attention' of DHH

NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - A state representative admitted he used his political power over Louisiana's budget to influence a state agency.

"You can call it political hardball if you want," Hammond Rep. Chris Broadwater said. "It's one of the ways that we can get attention. We certainly tried other ways first."

Broadwater said he introduced a $25.8 million cut to the Department of Health and Hospitals because the agency needed to "address the concerns" he and his colleagues have.

Broadwater said DHH regulators were not getting inspections done in a timely manner. He also claimed inspectors were asking too much of business owners when it came to water runoff and water quality. He told FOX 8 that business leaders and contractors had to go through too much bureaucracy and red tape to comply with DHH regulations.

"It's really not a necessary process, and we can come up with other ways to do it," he said.

The Republican said he never planned to cut DHH's funding and only threatened the agency to make regulators see things his way. On Thursday, Broadwater took the amendment out of HB 1, giving the $25.8 million back to DHH.

DHH Secretary Kathy Klibert said the cuts would have affected state inspections of seafood, restaurants, school cafeterias and water.

If the cuts had stayed in place, inspections to find brain eating amoebas would cease, she said.

"These inspections are critical, and we have to have the sanitation engineers and these inspections programs. Our entire system of public health would be in jeopardy in Louisiana," Klibert said.

She said DHH worked closely with Broadwater to address his concerns and get the funding back.

"Representative Broadwater will tell you he was frustrated and he wanted to make sure that we understood this was a serious issue for a lot of constituents," Klibert said. "[Lawmakers] felt that it was important enough that as a public health agency, if we were using the funds in a way they felt weren't appropriate - which the Legislature has every right to do - then they would appropriate them differently."

"I didn't feel like it was playing with fire in this particular instance. We left over $300 million in that program, over 1,000 employees still there. DHH is a massive enterprise. We did still leave the authority for them to administer those programs," Broadwater said.

Copyright 2015 WVUE. All rights reserved.