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|Rainy Day amendment deserves support|
A proposed constitutional amendment working its way through the legislative process in the regular session would go a long way in aiding the state's efforts to cope with budget shortfalls in years when the state is strapped for cash.
Senate Bill 147 by Senate President Joel Chaisson would allow the state to repay money withdrawn from the Budget Stabilization Fund – better known as the Rainy Day fund – over a four-year period.
A number of years ago voters approved a constitutional amendment establishing the Rainy Day fund. It was set up for the Legislature to tap when lawmakers struggle to balance the budget in the face of declining state revenues. The constitutional amendment that authorized the Rainy Day fund requires that any money taken from the fund must be replenished the same year the money was withdrawn.
As asinine as that sounds, that's the way the amendment reads.
Two years ago, the Legislature approved a law that allows money taken from the Rainy Day fund to be repaid two years after the money was withdrawn. The 2009 law is being challenged in court as unconstitutional.
Chaisson's SB 147 would clarify the issue. If approved by the Legislature as well as by the voters this fall, Chaisson's measure would allow the Legislature to skip paying back money taken from the Rainy Day fund the same year it was withdrawn. Money withdrawn from the Rainy Fund would not have to be repaid the following year either. In all, the Legislature would have four years to repay money taken from the Rainy Day fund.
It makes no sense to require the Legislature to repay money withdrawn from the Rainy Day fund the same year the money was withdrawn. After all, if the Legislature had the money at its disposal to repay money withdrawn from the Rainy Day fund the same year it withdrew it, the Legislature most likely would not need to withdraw money from the Rainy Day fund in the first place.
Chaisson's bill is an important measure that should receive the blessing of the Legislature, and voters would be wise to approve it this fall when it appears on ballots throughout the state.