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"Responsibly Austere": Senate Budget Plan Revealed

Sue Lincoln
Sen. Eric LaFleur works on HB 1

“I was just looking at the definition of ‘austere’: ‘a situation in which there is not much money and it is spent only on things that are necessary’,” Senate Finance chairman Eric LaFleur remarked, as he unveiled his committee’s proposed changes to the House budget bill.

Describing the plan as both “responsible” and “austere”, he summarized the changes.

“We made available approximately $220-million of additional money, and then this is how we appropriated it: we will not cut Higher Ed, DCFS, Corrections, veterans, or the amount allocated to sheriffs’ housing. We have funded MFP. For civil service and Probation and Parole, we are providing for a 2% increase. We fully fund TOPS.”

He says they’re also paying some current year bills the House neglected to cover.

“As you all know, it was approximately $80-million that was left, basically just not taken care of – 80-million bucks.”

Senate President John Alario observed, “I think it’s the first time in nine years that Higher Ed will not get a cut.”

Governor John Bel Edwards issued a statement calling the proposal “a responsible approach”. Senator Sharon Hewitt concurred.

“I think this is a very responsible approach. You know, we made some good decisions. We didn’t just do an across-the-board haircut.”

“We imposed cuts, but we imposed cuts with a high level of specificity in a way that we thought it would minimize the reduction in any of the services that those programs provided,” LaFleur agreed.

And even the former chairman of Senate Finance, Jack Donahue, was impressed that this plan leaves some estimated revenue unspent -- though not the full $239-million the House left on the table.

“I’d like to be responsible in our response to what the House did, and I can’t help looking at the numbers thinking that $122-million is the number that we are honoring the House with,” Donahue remarked. “So I would think the House would think this was a responsible budget, also.”

The full Senate has to vote on the bill, which they’re expected to do this weekend.

Then the House will respond.