The House Appropriations Committee passed the newest version of the state’s operating budget Tuesday. Chairman Cameron Henry (R-Metairie) says this latest version leaves $100 million unspent.
The plan appropriates 98.9% of the total revenue forecast by the Revenue Estimating Conference.
After years of mid-year budget cuts, some legislators support spending less money than the state is expected to bring in.
In the regular session, the House originally wanted to leave $206 million unappropriated. But the Senate favored spending 100% of the money. Henry says this is an effort to compromise with the Senate and Governor Edwards.
But according to Commissioner of Administration Jay Dardenne, it’s more responsible to appropriate the entire revenue forecast, "recognizing that there are going to be very appropriate safeguards put in place to try and address what we hope doesn’t happen and that is more mid-year cuts."
Similar to last fiscal year, the administration says it will instruct agencies to hold back money in the event of a budget shortfall.
Dardenne urged the committe not to “create a situation where you’re not appropriating $100 million that REC says is available to us to provide the huge needs we know we have in these various departments that are going to be adversely affected.”
Much of the regular session budget debate centered on the reliability of REC estimates. Dardenne says it’s still the crux of the issue in the ongoing budget negotiations.
“And that’s really what our discussion is about," he said, "whether you’re going to appropriate this money or whether you’re not going to appropriate the money. That’s really what all this discussion and disagreement is boiling down to.”
The bill will be debated on the House floor Wednesday. The special session must end no later than Monday.