Gov. Edwards is criticizing an amended budget heading to the full House, saying it’s not worth the paper it’s printed on, but lawmakers who drafted the proposal are standing by their decisions.
"I think it’s important for taxpayers to know that we’ve come up here and done the best job we can with the resources available," said House Committee on Appropriations Chair Cameron Henry.
Education is one of the big areas lawmakers are trying to fund. The budget proposal would give the State Department of Education $5 billion, while Higher Ed would get $2.9 billion. The Appropriations Committee also amended the budget to fully fund TOPS.
"Letting all of the students know that we’re going to fully fund TOPS as it leaves committee, hopefully that’s a signal that they’ll stay in Louisiana, go to a local university, come back and work here locally," said Henry.
Healthcare funding remains a major challenge for the committee. Henry said every year, the Department of Health asks for an extra $200-400 million, money he said the state doesn’t have.
Henry suggested instead to revamp the Medicaid program and that LDH tighten its belt.
"We are the only state that has public private partnerships. That is it. Just us. If they were such a fantastic idea, obviously other states would have picked up on that by now. If we’re going to continue to compare ourselves to other states in all forms of government, I think we need to mirror their actions that they’re doing," said Henry.
Even with all of that number crunching, a second special budget session is still a real possibility.
"What we have to understand is that this becomes a math problem. We have a certain dollar amount and we have to spread it around. Even if we would have passed taxes at the special session, the rate at which this government spends money, specifically the Louisiana Department of Health, is out-pacing the overall revenues that the state generates every year," said Henry.
From here, the committee-passed bill will move on to the House floor for consideration Thursday.