The House approved a two-part budget plan Thursday that would give more funding to state programs than they had in the budget vetoed by Gov. John Bel Edwards, but it's still shy of meeting the entire shortfall.
"I know the bill is not perfect, we're gonna try to add some more back," said Rep. Cameron Henry (R-Metairie).
Rep. Henry, chairman of the appropriations committee, says the plan assumes the Legislature will approve nearly $400 million in additional revenue this special session, which means cuts would still have to be made. The state is expected to bring in $650 million less next fiscal year.
In this plan, funding for TOPS would be cut by 10 percent and the Department of Health would lose $100 million in state funding. Most agencies would avoid massive cuts, and funding for nursing homes and the state’s safety-net hospitals would be protected.
But earlier this week, a Senate committee showed its willingness to raise $640 million — nearly the entire budget gap — by voting to amend the sales tax bill, a key component of the special session.
"I think for the sole fact that that money has literally received one committee hearing through the process, and as many of you see here now, we've already discussed problems with that bill," explained Henry.
The House, on the other hand, has only voted to raise $400 million. GOP House leaders don't think there's enough support to raise any more.
On the floor Thursday, a number of House members — mostly Democrats who support filling the entire funding gap — tried changing the budget to reflect that extra Senate Committee revenue. Henry urged them not to spend money that hasn't gotten full legislative approval.
"What I'm going to caution members to do is not give false hope to these folks that we're going to go out and fully fund everything," he said.
For the most part, attempts to spend the potential new money didn't get enough support.
The special session must end Monday night, but lawmakers still can't agree on exactly how much money to raise.
The full Senate is expected to weigh in on the sales tax bill today.