What’s Next for the Budget Reform Coalition?

Rep. John Schroder, R-Covington, said the Budget Reform Coalition is beginning to prepare for the 2014 regular session.

Rep. John Schroder, R-Covington, said the Budget Reform Coalition is beginning to prepare for the 2014 regular session.

For starters, the organization will continue to be referred to as the Fiscal Hawks, whether its membership likes it or not. "It's funny," said Rep. John Schroder, R-Covington. "We never asked to be called that."

Secondly, the coalition may be inching toward a 2014 agenda that includes the drafting of their own appropriations bills, including a fully functional alternative to HB 1.

But first they'll have to meet. The coalition, which is made up overwhelmingly of fiscally conservative Republicans, hasn't sat at the same table since session ended, nor has it made any official decisions.

Still, it has been in the headlines over the past week, beginning with one story that suggested a new alliance had been forged between the coalition and Democrats, and ending with another that quoted lawmakers who called that description a "mischaracterization." The latter was fueled by anti-Democratic remarks from House GOP Chairman Lance Harris of Alexandria that seemed to address the angst expressed last session by Jindal Republicans.

Another founding member of the coalition, Rep. Brett Geymann, R-Lake Charles, admitted that their war against one-time money in the budget was won last session with the help of Democrats and, if the battle continues to be issues-driven, that working relationship may need to be repeated. "We're not against working with anyone," he said.

Schroder agreed, adding, "If we don't do that, Louisiana loses. Finding common ground with the Democrats is a positive thing. I mean, the people of Louisiana expect us to act like big boys and big girls and not be divided on everything."

The news stories from the past week, however, may have made that task more difficult. "It forced Republicans and Democrats a little further apart," Schroder said.

What hasn't changed about the coalition is its leadership structure, or lack thereof, with no clear chairman or director. Schroder plays the role of "cat herder" or whip. The coalition usually doesn't meet without him ringing a bell or two and he said meetings will likely commence in November. "Everyone is doing their own little things," he said.

Geymann, meanwhile, plays point on policy and Rep. Cameron Henry, R-Metairie, does the same, although in an unofficial capacity. He's the one working on the alternative budget idea that will eventually be presented to the whole group. "If the House can come up with its own budget, we can see where all the money is. It's the next logical step for us," he said, adding that the coalition wants to have a fleshed-out document in hand before approaching Republicans in the Senate.

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