BATON ROUGE, La. Finally a bit of good news for Louisiana lawmakers who have grappled with years of continuing budget cuts.
Gov. Bobby Jindals administration said the state has nearly $163 million left over from the 2012-13 fiscal year that ended June 30, delivering the estimate Friday to the Joint Legislative Committee on the Budget.
Auditors still have to review the states books before the surplus amount is certified and the dollars are available for spending.
In addition, the state Constitution limits the way surplus money can be spent.
Lawmakers and the Jindal administration will decide how to use the money in the 2014 legislative session.
Commissioner of Administration Kristy Nichols, the governors top budget adviser, said no decisions have been made about how the Jindal administration will propose to spend the surplus.
Were just happy to have the money, she said.
Lawmakers offered little reaction after Nichols announced the estimate Friday. Many had heard the general range of the excess money in conversations around the Louisiana Capitol.
Plus, they face new rounds of financial concerns in crafting the 2014-15 budget in the 2014 legislative session, with an estimated $547 million shortfall in the dollars theyd need to continue all current services and account for inflationary increases.
The surplus is the second in two years for the state. Lawmakers used the previous $113 million surplus to fill a gap in the states Medicaid program that provides health care to the poor, elderly and developmentally disabled.
Sen. Jack Donahue, chairman of the joint budget committee, said he believes the states economy is on an upturn, which is helping to improve but not entirely fix the budget picture.
Things are getting better, but we still have more needs than we have money, Donahue, R-Mandeville, said.
Donahue said hed like to see part of this latest surplus socked away in the rainy day fund, which is owed $330 million to help settle a 2010 lawsuit over the use of the fund in recent years to help close budget gaps.
The lawsuit settlement bill comes due in 2015, and Donahue would like to make some of the payment before that deadline.