Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards was not satisfied with the budget that came out of the House and threatened to call a special session if the Senate did not make significant changes.
The Senate did. It spared cuts to TOPS, higher education, prisons, and foster care in its version of the budget passed this past Saturday.
The Senate also spent $233 million more than the House. The House had set aside $206 million that it could appropriate in next year’s $29 billion budget. Members said they did so because revenue estimates have been consistently short, creating mid-year cuts.
But Sen. Eric LaFleur, D-Ville Platte, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, said they were not going to leave unspent money on the table. He said about the budget: “We thought it was a little bit more responsible than what was sent over from the House.”
LaFleur says he also believes that the House will be receptive to the many changes made in the budget by the Senate when the conference committees meet. He noted he didn’t expect the bill to change very much.
House Speaker Taylor Barras, R-New Iberia, shared that sentiment, but said that he expects some compromise will take place and that there will be a lot of deliberations.
LaFleur said all agencies and departments, except for higher education, prisons, and foster care, were cut at least 2%. He said it is an austere budget and doesn’t go beyond what was absolutely necessary, calling it prudent and responsible.
The reaction to the Senate budget by the governor has been positive. If it makes it through, it diminishes the need for a special session, he said.
What does a special session cost?
If Gov. John Bel Edwards decides to call a special session of the Legislature, how much would that cost the taxpayers of Louisiana?
The average cost per legislative day is about $25,000 for the Senate and $35,000 for the House. That cost per day includes per diem, additional desk staff and support staff wages, staff overtime, and travel allowance.
Based upon those figures, a 10-day special session would cost taxpayers more than $600,000. That total doesn’t count any pay that may be owed by the executive branch, which has representatives at hearings, nor does it include the costs incurred by state agencies.
Most Louisiana legislators make a salary of $22,800 for their work as an elected official. In addition, lawmakers are paid $149 per day every time they travel to the state capitol or other parts of Louisiana for legislative matters.
The per diem money of $149 a day is supposed to cover the cost of a legislator’s housing and food while the Legislature is in session.
On top of their $22,800 salary, lawmakers receive about $89,940 in per diem payments during a regular legislative session. The combined figure equals a base compensation of at least