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Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Louisiana House approves state operating budget, sends it to Senate

Posted By on Wed, Jun 14, 2017 at 6:05 PM

click to enlarge The Louisiana State Capitol. - CREATIVE COMMONS/FORMULANONE
  • CREATIVE COMMONS/FORMULANONE
  • The Louisiana State Capitol.

The Louisiana House approved the newest version of the state operating budget Wednesday and moved it to the Senate on a 56-46 vote. The approved budget appropriates all forecasted revenue, but instructs state agencies to refrain from spending a combined $60 million as a precaution against midyear shortfalls.

The House Bill 1 plan that left the Appropriations Committee Tuesday would have appropriated $100 million less than the total revenue projection, creating a budget surplus. If the projections were accurate, the money could be appropriated in next year’s regular session through a supplemental bill.

Thirteen Republicans and two Independents joined 41 Democrats in voting for the HB1 version, which had been amended earlier in the debate. The bill’s author, Finance Committee chairman Cameron Henry, was not present to shepherd the measure through the House; reports earlier in the day said Henry was flying to Washington D.C. to be with his brother Charles Henry, an aide to House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, who was shot in a Virginia park earlier in the day. State Rep. Franklin Foil, R-Baton Rouge, vice chairman of the committee, was called to handle the bill three hours before the House convened.

Most of the budget debate circulated around solutions to midyear cuts. Republicans initially wanted to withhold $206 million. Democrats feared that would mean potentially unnecessary layoffs and service cuts.

State Rep. Walt Leger, D-New Orleans, brought the amendment that allocates all the available money and brings the bill essentially to the final Senate posture that lingered in the House during the last minutes of the regular session Thursday.

Leger’s amendment met the exact 53-vote threshold required to pass legislation.
State Rep. Kenny Havard, R-Jackson, brought the amendment that would instruct agencies to spend prudently — to the tune of $60 million. It passed 63-40.

The bill now heads to the Senate.

In a statement after the passage, Gov. John Bel Edwards said:
“This budget represents an overall compromise. While it still imposes cuts across state government, it does so in a responsible way that adequately funds our needs without negatively impacting the most vulnerable among us. This budget also continues a practice that my administration began this fiscal year, whereby funds are set aside in reserves from state agencies to address possible cuts throughout the fiscal year. Equally important, this budget contains no new taxes. It is a responsible spending plan that reverses years of mismanagement and for the first time in a decade, offers some stability to our state. I appreciate the House’s work with us on this bill, and I look forward to swift passage in the Louisiana Senate.”

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