Capitol Access

Weekdays at the bottom of the hour during Morning Edition

Reports on Louisiana politics, government and the people shaping state policy.

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Lawmakers that have fought the Administration for more power in the process of privatizing the state’s charity hospitals may get their wish as they consider funding for the cost of laying off hospital workers.

According to a report by the state auditor’s office, the privatization will cost the state 42 million dollar in leave payouts and unemployment payments. 

With a 95-3 vote, a nearly $25 billion budget is heading to the Senate for approval after days of negotiations. But it’s not the plan Gov. Bobby Jindal wanted.

Legislators from across the political spectrum stood on the Capitol steps Thursday afternoon touting their independence and a seeming conclusion to budget negotiations.


The State Supreme Court has ruled that the state can't pay private school tuition through the same funding channel as it uses to support public schools.

Now, Gov. Bobby Jindal is going to have to find another way to keep the voucher program going.

The legislature’s bipartisan budget negotiations have yielded a late-night preliminary deal, struck after the legislature closed up shop on Monday. The plan will cut tax exemptions and reduce spending to curb the state's dependency on one-time funds.

 

The deal includes cutting tax exemptions by 15 percent across the board. That will free up $329 million, enough to replace a large chunk of the half a billion in one-time funds in next year’s budget.

 

Thursday House Speaker Chuck Kleckley endorsed a plan that would raise revenue and cut spending.

Earlier this week, the budget was on track to avoid much debate on the floor, but it hit a snag on Tuesday.

 

The governor announced Wednesday that 8,000 children have been offered a private school voucher for the second year of the program -- 3,000 more than enrolled with this year’s inaugural crop.

The voucher program, passed last session, allows parents of low-income families to take their kids out of schools rated C, D and F and send them to private schools on the state’s dime.

The program’s funding mechanism is awaiting judgement by the State Supreme Court, as are accountability measures, another part of the overhaul.

Meanwhile, bills are popping up this session to refine the overhaul.

A Medicaid Expansion plan passed the Senate Committee on Health and Welfare Tuesday in a 4, 3 vote.

 

Opponents of the expansion repeated the arguments they’ve given throughout the debate: federal funding is unreliable, and the plan will cost the state too much money. 

 

The state may need to accept the federal Medicaid Expansion to fund LSU hospitals under the new public/private partnerships.

 

That’s according to Steve Spires, with the Louisiana Budget Project, an advocacy group that focuses on the effects of policy changes to low- and middle-income households.

Lawmakers face an onslaught of decisions every day at the capitol: vote up or down, pass this amendment, defer that bill... A few key players in this week's Medicaid expansion debate explain why they voted the way they did.

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