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Hospitals Remain Concerned As Edwards, Lawmakers Navigate Budget

Wallis Watkins

On the same day thousands of letters were sent to Medicaid recipients across Louisiana warning them of potential cuts to the program, Gov. John Bel Edwards tried to address concerns at University Hospital and Clinics in Lafayette, one of the state's hospital partners threatening to shut down if they aren’t fully funded in next year's budget.

"And it just doesn’t have to be this way," Edwards said. "It shouldn’t be this way. This actually ought to be pretty easy.”

Edwards suggested it's the House that's making the budget situation more difficult. He says they've proven themselves incapable of addressing the state's looming fiscal cliff, when nearly $650 million in taxes are set to expire.

The Governor is urging the Legislature to replace that revenue. But some Republicans in the House, like Appropriations Chairman Cameron Henry (R-Metairie), say revenue isn't the problem.

"It's not mathematically possible for us to continue to raise the dollars that this administration spends," Henry said. "That's the issue, we are spending more money than we bring in."

The tension between the Governor and the House has led to plenty of partisan finger pointing, especially after budget negotiations unraveled in the recent special session.

"It's their inaction that produced that reality and now it's time to deal with that reality, and I'm going to give them another chance, starting on May 22," Edwards said.

That's when the Governor wants go into another special session, one last chance for the Legislature to replace revenue and avoid budget cuts. But for that to happen, legislators will have to wrap up this regular session soon.

In the meantime, the Senate Finance committee is expected to take a vote on the budget Friday. Edwards says he anticipates the committee will shift some cuts, but he says, "it will only further demonstrate the correctness of my assertion all along, that there isn't enough revenue to adequately fund state government, our critical priorities."