It’s not unusual for the Legislature to meet on the weekend before the session ends, but it is out of the ordinary when they get the budget bill done a day early. That’s what happened yesterday evening.
“The dynamics of this session is quite a bit different from anything else we’ve gone through, because you all know that these items will be readdressed on Tuesday,” Senate Finance Committee chair Eric LaFleur told the upper chamber, as he presented the conference committee report.
“And by the way, there’s nothing in here that created any new money, so we’re still $600-million short. The cuts that we have talked about in higher ed are still there. The cuts in the private-public partnerships are still in there. Cuts in all the other things that we’ve been talking about are still there,” LaFleru added.
Still, he counts the end result almost as a victory.
“Between the time this bill, HB1, left the Senate and the time that it’s now back to you, there’s been a total change of only $5,290,930 – total. That’s a pretty good deal, and we were able to reach that in very short order.”
Over in the House, appropriations chair Cameron Henry told the tale a bit differently.
“The original options that we sent over to the Senate added about 11 million dollars back in. When the Senate sent that list back to me, it was at 3 million dollars. When I sent it back to them, it was at 7. And the compromise is what you see in front of you right now, at 5-point 2 million dollars.”
And Henry did a bit of grumbling about the Senate’s refusal to sweep fees and self-generated revenue by putting them into the Bond Security and Redemption Fund.
“I still think it’s something we can use. I still think it’s something we should use. The Senate – at this point – doesn’t feel the same way.”
But for this one day, at least, both sides of the Legislature appear satisfied.
“It wasn’t exactly 100% of what I would like and it wasn’t a 100% of what the Senate would like,” Henry said. “Is it perfect? No. Is it better that what it left here? It is.”
Governor John Bel Edwards issued a statement saying, “This is not the budget that I, and a vast majority of the legislature, want to see implemented,” and urging the Legislature to continue working together through the special session to correct this budget’s deficiencies.