BATON ROUGE — The Louisiana Senate on Tuesday passed the House’s proposed budget 27-10 with several amendments that shifted major cuts to fall on governmental agencies rather than health care.
But many senators questioned the point of even passing a budget when it may not go into effect if revenue is raised during the special session starting next week. Some said that passing the budget would give false hope to Louisiana residents that the state’s budget problems were over.
“I beg you, do not give the public false hope,” Sen. Karen Carter Peterson, D-New Orleans, said. “Do not pass this bill. We’re coming back anyway. Let’s do it right and not create this farce.”
The Senate budget proposes cuts of 24 percent to most state agencies and 30 percent to TOPS funding, while fully funding health care priorities. The Republican-led House had passed a budget that would cut TOPS by 20 percent and slash state spending on health care.
Senate Finance Chairman Eric LaFleur, D-Ville Platte, presented the bill, but agreed that passage would not end the state’s fiscal uncertainty.
“It would be a lie of a massive magnitude to tell the public that we have fixed the problems of the state,” LaFleur said.
LaFleur acknowledged that the cuts to state agencies would hinder their ability to function.
“I really believe that most of these departments, with a 24 percent cut, will not be able to complete their mission,” LaFleur said.
Lawmakers have been struggling to create and pass a budget, with a looming $648 million shortfall for the next fiscal year beginning July 1. The gap is a result of the expiration of a one- cent sales tax, which was a temporary solution to the state’s financial shortcomings.
The House failed to pass any revenue-raising measures during a special session earlier this year, and the Legislature cannot vote on any revenue-raising measures during the current regular session.