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Louisiana Senate derails bill to limit legislative spending

Louisiana State Capitol Building
Posted at 1:54 PM, May 23, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-23 14:54:46-04

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) - Louisiana state senators Friday stalled a proposal that would cut the amount of money available to lawmakers to spend on the state's general operating expenses, raising concerns about the impact on essential services.

The Senate Finance Committee didn't vote to kill Baton Rouge Republican Rep. Rick Edmonds' bill. Instead, senators simply didn't vote, keeping the measure locked up in the committee.

"I'm setting it on the side, and we'll talk about it some more," said Finance Chairman Mack "Bodi" White, a Republican from Central.

With a week remaining in the legislative session, Friday's move could shelve the idea.

The proposal would restrict lawmakers to spending only 98% of general tax income expected to flow into the state treasury each year, keeping 2% off-limits from the annual operating budget. It would take effect in the budget year beginning July 1, 2021, removing nearly $200 million from being spent on state operating expenses in the first year.

Supporters said the restriction would hedge against the possibility revenues come in short of estimates and could build up surpluses for savings, roadwork or debt payments.

"I don't think any of us spend everything we have" in our personal accounts or businesses, Edmonds said.

Opponents worried about cutting dollars available to lawmakers for the annual budget when the state's financial future is so uncertain.

"I appreciate what you're trying to do, but we just have needs in this state," said Sen. Ronnie Johns, a Lake Charles Republican. He added: "Government and business are just different."

The House voted 67-32 for the measure earlier in the session.

Gov. John Bel Edwards, a Democrat, opposed the idea. Edmonds has proposed the measure five times, but has been unable to gain final passage.

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