State Rep. Greg Miller (R-Norco) said he was disappointed after Attorney General Buddy Caldwell decided not to issue an opinion on the constitutionality of the state’s budget.
Miller and 18 other state representatives had requested an opinion from Caldwell two months ago. A statement prepared by an assistant attorney general in Caldwell’s office took the position that any laws passed by the legislature are presumed to be constitutional because the attorney general is required to defend the constitutionality of state laws in the court system.
Miller said the group of representatives are mulling over filing a lawsuit in a Baton Rouge court system to determine the law’s constitutionality.
"We’ll have to decide whether we think it is appropriate to file a declaratory judgment asking the court to determine whether it is indeed constitutional," Miller said. "Any citizen of the state of Louisiana would be free to do it."
Taking that path would mean a lot of time and resources for the matter to ultimately end up in front of the Louisiana Supreme Court, where they would presumably face off against the Attorney General’s Office on the issue.
"A district court judge would have to make a decision and then we would have to go up to the Supreme Court for the final answer," Miller said. "It would take some resources and of course it would take some resources on behalf of the state to defend it. With what little precious resources that we have the question is; Is this the way to attack the problem?"
Miller and his colleagues argue that the budget as passed in the 2012 legislative session is unconstitutional because it uses one-time funds for recurring expenses, something they contend is expressly forbidden in the state constitution.
"The constitution of Louisiana is fairly clear that you are not supposed to use non-recovering revenues for recurring expenses," Miller said. "If we can we use it in bad times and give a wink and a nod to the constitutionality of it, then what happens when we have a surplus of a billion dollars? We are not going to use it to pay down our debt."
According to the Sunshine Review, a non-profit organization that tracks the budgets of all states, Louisiana has a total outstanding debt of $67 billion as of fiscal year 2013, which equals out to just over $14,000 per state resident.
Miller said if the state does not take action to reduce the debt now by dedicating one time funds to paying it down, that debt will continue to grow.
"We are just going to go ahead and spend it on whatever we want and that is how we got ourselves in this whole budget mess to begin with, in my opinion," Miller said.