Speaking at a Mandeville forum organized to protest the imminent closure of Southeast Louisiana Hospital, a state-operated psychiatric facility, state Treasurer John Kennedy lent his support for a proposed special legislative session to address hundreds of millions in state reductions pushed through by Gov. Bobby Jindal after the close of the regular legislative session.
"This proposal [closing the hospital] is supposed to be because we don't have enough money, and that's just not accurate, folks," Kennedy said. In fact, on Thursday, the day after the meeting, the state announced an expected $130 million surplus for the fiscal year that ended June 30. That money will not be allocated until next year's legislative session, which begins April 2013. The hospital closure is scheduled for October.
Quoting a report he said came from the state legislative auditor, Kennedy said, "I've read that Louisiana has as many as 19,000 consultant contracts. ... You want to save money? That's where you start."
Kennedy called on state legislators to agree to a proposal by Rep. Jerome "Dee" Richard, I-Thibodaux, to convene a special legislative session to reconsider Jindal's cuts. Richard publicized the idea in an email to supporters last week.
"Since our adjournment in June, there has been almost a billion dollars in reductions to the state budget without any input from the Legislature," Richard's email reads. "I believe it is time for us, as legislators, to aggressively reinsert ourselves into the budget process by using the constitutional rights given to us."
State Rep. Harold Ritchie, D-Bogalusa, who also spoke at the meeting, said he already agreed to the special session. "I got the email from Rep. Richard. I marked 'yes.' I said put me down as a yes," Ritchie said. — CHARLES MALDONADO