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Cutting Our Way to the TOPS

S. Lincoln

Although we’re past the halfway point of the legislative session, House leaders say they are still about three weeks away from moving the budget bill, HB 1. So Senate Finance Committee members got an update on the budget proposal Monday.

Shreveport Senator Greg Tarver asked about rumors the House is trying to make big changes.

“We hear they’re talking about cutting other things to fully fund TOPS.”

“Absent new revenue, you’re going to have to go in and cut $185-million,” Commissioner of Administration Jay Dardenne replied. “I can’t tell you that there’s $185-million in responsible cuts that are to be made in order to fund TOPS.”

Meanwhile, in House Appropriations, Rep. Jerome Richard’s bill to cut contracts was being amended by Rep. Blake Miguez.

“What about an amendment for $184-million, requiring the Commissioner of Administration to cut some type of contracts – wherever he sees fit – so we can figure out a way to fund TOPS fully?” Miguez offered.

Jonathan Walker with the Office of State Procurement did the math to show there’s not really much room to do that.

“It’s about 3,000 contracts with a cumulative value of $12-point-5 billion. $11.5-billion of that is either Bayou Health or OGB contracts. So that’s a billion left of the 12-point-5,” Walker explained. “Within that billion dollars, approximately 40-percent of all contracts are discretionary, so you’d be looking at a 50-percent cut on these contracts.”

Appropriations chair Cameron Henry bristled at being told the biggest contracts are off limits.

“Representative Richard’s bill doesn’t terminate contracts. It reduces them by 10-percent. It doesn’t eliminate them,” Henry insisted. “Is there some law on the books now that prevents us from cutting Bayou Health contracts?”

Rep. Patricia Smith reminded Henry and the rest of the committee that the Bayou Health contracts provide managed care programs for Medicaid and LA Chip recipients.

“If Bayou Health were cut, we would be cutting people who need health care,” Smith said. “It is also a drawndown of dollars from the federal government. So once we lose one dollar, we lose 3 or 4 or 6.”

The bill – with the Miguez amendment—was approved.