Louisiana Sen. Caleb Kleinpeter expects busy two weeks before legislative session ends

Staff Report

Just two weeks remain until the end of state Sen. Caleb Kleinpeter’s first regular legislative session, and plenty work remains before the final day at the State Capitol.

The Grosse Tete native, who now lives in Port Allen, got a sample of the legislative experience during a special session earlier this year.

State Sen. Caleb Kleinpeter

But the District 17 Republican said the regular session has dealt him a bigger challenge.

“For the regular session, I’ve been thrown to the wolves, and I’ve had to learn as I go along,” he said. “But I’m a quick learner, and I’m trying to learn as fast as I can.”

Expenditure limits will pose a challenge for lawmakers, and not because of a lack of funds.

A $483 million increase in revenue for the state’s general fund was approved last week by the Revenue Estimating Conference, which adds to the $323.4 million more than previously expected in the current fiscal year. It will bring the total surplus from the past two years to more than $2.1 billion.

A formula, however, puts a cap on spending that will impose a $500 million in surplus funds on recurring items for fiscal year 2014.

That scenario sets the stage for a battle between lawmakers on whether the state should hike limits on expenditures.

“What’s interesting about the expenditures is that we must explain to the public this is not a debt limit, unlike Congress, where they raise the debts,” Kleinpeter said. “A lot of my constituents would like to see the expenditure limit raised to be able to spend it on one-time funds.”

Lawmakers are not sure yet if they should spend it and, if so, how much and on what would they spend it.

Kleinpeter emphasized he does not want excessive government spending.

“I’m very conservative, especially when it comes to spending money,” he said.

Teacher pay raises would make be an appropriate expenditure, Kleinpeter said.

“It takes a special person to want to teach and if we don’t hire the best teachers, we’re not going to provide a good education,” he said. “I’ve always supported our teachers and I’ll always support them going forward.

“I’m in agreeance and but I don’t know the number we will set forth,” Kleinpeter said. “That will come from higherups on how much we can afford.”

Meanwhile, he said he would join fellow Republicans on a plan to let the .45-cent sales tax fall off the book at the end of the next fiscal year.

The tax went on the books as a .5-cent tax when Gov. John Bel Edwards took office in 2016.

Legislators approved the bill to shrink a $900 billion deficit the state faced at the start of his first term. “I think we can live in our means by cutting spending somewhere and give taxpayers a break,” he said.

Kleinpeter will be up for a full-term in the fall election after he won the seat to fill the remainder of Rick Ward’s term. Ward stepped down to pursue work in the private sector.