Today, the Louisiana House of Representatives returns from a three day weekend to begin debate on the state’s budget. As you are aware, the House immediately adjourned on Thursdayupon the start of the special session and remained gone through the weekend. In this 11-day session, three days have already been lost. House Bill 1, the budget bill, must originate in the House before the Louisiana Senate can consider it.
This weekend, legislators confirmed what we all knew from the regular session – that procedural roadblocks were used to prevent the legislature from even bringing the budget up for a vote. In fact, Speaker Taylor Barras admitted in news reports that, despite being aware that these procedural votes would be requested days in advance, he intentionally ran out the clock on the regular session.
Barras said he thought it would be unfair to bring up a proposal that was not fully presented to the body. The House had previously rejected the Senate version of the budget and the details on the compromise proposal, which was contained in a conference report, had come from the Senate.
"It is highly unusual," Barras said of Leger's attempts. "I didn't feel in the last 15 minutes was when we should vote on an item uninformed."
"I just wasn't going to allow the body to be subjected to that," he added. [The Advocate, 6/9/17]
The House budget proposal left roughly $200 million unappropriated. Their argument for doing this is to prevent mid-year budget cuts. In addition, there are approximately $80 million in expenses for the current fiscal year for law enforcement, corrections and children and family services that the House ignored. As a result, they would begin the next fiscal year in a deficit. The unappropriated funds could not be used to address a mid-year cut without the legislature being called in for another costly special session.
As a compromise, Gov. Edwards and Senate leaders proposed a resolution asking every branch of government to reserve a total of $50 million in spending, in anticipation of a possible shortfall. This plan was passed 30-6 in the Louisiana Senate but was not brought up in the House prior to adjournment.#lalege Tweets
This was a practice used by the Edwards Administration for the current fiscal year’s budget. In the Fall of 2016, in an effort to address a budget shortfall that the legislature carried over from the previous fiscal year, Gov. Edwards requested state agencies to withhold 5 percent of their budget to address this shortfall. [Associated Press, 6/30/16] These withheld funds allowed departments to respond to a mid-year deficit and to respond to the flood disaster in 2016.
New House Budget Proposal Facts:
- Like the Senate, the House budget proposal pushes the Jindal Medicaid payment into next year. The language in HB 1 that pushes this payment is available here.
- More than $720 million in cuts to critical health care services
- A $69.8 million cut to the Department of Children and Family Services
- 67 child welfare positions
- 11 child support enforcement positions
- 50 economic stability positions
- Closure of two Department of Veterans Affairs Cemeteries
- The state would be obligated to repay more than $10 million in grant monies received from the Federal VA for the construction of cemeteries in Rayville and Leesville should they be closed.
- Two cemeteries, one in Keithville and the other in Slidell, have seen the highest number of burials of veterans and their immediate family members recently.