With just a few days left in this regular session, the Senate has passed a budget that funds health-care services, but makes cuts to most other departments in state government.
Sen. Eric LaFleur (D-Ville Platte) says the budget is inadequate, but it does demonstrate “what our priorities are and just how bad the problem is now.”
Others, like Sen. JP Morrell (D-New Orleans), say the budget actually sends the wrong message to people who rely on those health-care programs, "because though we fund them in the bill as it is structured, we unfund a tremendous amount of other things that are equally important to get there.”
Sen. Karen Carter Peterson (D-New Orleans) begged members not to pass the budget, known as HB 1. She says doing so only feeds into the politics at play with the House.
“We can’t get Senate bills to move over there unless HB 1 gets sent to them. It’s foolishness and people deserve better," she told members of the Senate Tuesday.
But Sen. LaFleur says many in the Senate believe passing a budget in this session is part of their job.
“Again," he explained, "this is not the budget we would want, but at least within this budget, we spell out what it is we want.”
The Senate also spelled out ways they’d be willing to consider raising revenue in the upcoming special session, like keeping a portion of the one cent in sales tax that’s expiring, or adjusting some tax incentive programs.
Because all revenue-raising measures have to start in the House, the Senate’s hands are tied when it comes to addressing the budget shortfall.
Sen. Norby Chabert (R-Houma) says this resolution allows them to make their intentions clear.
“That budget, whether you want to call it immoral or pathetic or cockamamie or make-believe or pretend," he said, "this resolution says ‘that ain’t the end of it. That ain’t where we want to be.’”
Lawmakers will close the regular session Friday and move into a special session next week.