Senate President Joel Chaisson, D-Destrehan, has a set of bills that would allow lawmakers to dip into the state's so-called rainy day fund during times of fiscal need — and thus solve a large part of this year's budget headache. But some House leaders and Gov. Bobby Jindal aren't sold and have suggested waiting to tap the fund until the budget picture worsens over the next two years. "I think the rainy day fund would be better used to help with our [fiscal year 2012] problems," Jindal says. "We believe it's important to be getting ready for bigger fiscal challenges in the years ahead."
Crossing over to Chaisson's side this session is the CARE Coalition, whose membership includes groups that represent nursing homes, dentists, pharmacies, emergency care providers and others. John Matessino, CEO of the Louisiana Hospital Association, says the fund should be tapped now because it's already raining. "Currently, unforeseen drops in federal funding, like the imminent reduction of stimulus funding and the pending decrease in federal money for Medicaid, are not calculated into the deficit for purposes of accessing the rainy day fund," he says. "The elimination of those sources of funding certainly qualifies as a 'rainy day' and should be considered as the state addresses the budget." — Jeremy Alford