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Lawmakers Re-Examine Budget On Day Two Of Special Session

Wallis Watkins

The House Appropriations committee spent the second day of a 10-day special session rehashing old budget debates. 

The Legislature passed a state spending plan a few weeks ago. But now, Chairman Cameron Henry (R-Metairie) wants to see if more money can be saved, reducing the need for additional taxes.

"They might want to adjust an agency budget one way or another, maybe give them more money, maybe give them less, so that's just part of the budget process," says Rep. Henry.  

Corrections, Health and Higher Education leaders defended their budgets in front of the committee Tuesday.

House Speaker Pro Temp Walt Leger (D-New Orleans) says re-introducing the budget — largely approved by both the House and Senate — is slowing down a short special session.

"We're spending time going through the motions when we could be focused on negotiating a compromise that will actually fund the priorities we've already clearly expressed we have," he explains.

The current spending plan, signed into law by the Governor, leaves a handful of state services, like TOPS and The Department of Children and Family Services, underfunded. If lawmakers don't fill the $500-million budget gap this special session, the agencies and state services that aren't fully funded would get an equal share of the money raised.

Multiple sales tax bills are being floated to raise revenue. One penny in state sales tax expires at the end of the month, causing the state's financial crisis. Bills that would temporarily maintain ⅓ and ½ of the penny failed in past sessions.

On Tuesday, Rep. Paula Davis (R-Baton Rouge) offered up a plan that would fall in the middle, extending the state sales tax to 4.4 percent for five years. 

"I'm hoping that's a compromise between Democrats and Republicans and that we can get this done and go home. It's still funding critical services, while still cutting government," she says.

That bill, plus other sales tax measures, are expected to be voted on in the House Ways and Means committee today.