The Louisiana House of Representatives narrowly succeeded in passing a budget with $650 million dollars in cuts. Governor John Bel Edwards says it’s a failure.
“The state is better than this. They deserve better than this,” Edwards said.
The bill that left the house floor cut the TOPS scholarship program by 20 percent. Some of that money was moved to restore a $25 million reduction to higher education. Most will go to fund a fraction of the state’s safety-net hospitals. At a press conference following the bill’s passage, a frustrated Edwards said it’s not enough money to keep those hospitals open.
“Under this budget, every single partner hospital around the state of Louisiana closes its doors," Edwards said.
Rep. Cameron Henry (R-Metairie) is the head of the Appropriations Committee, which crafted the budget. He defended the bill, and said advancing it to the Senate is a necessary step.
“There’s ways to maneuver some money around if they choose to see fit," Henry said. "I think it’s better for them to go through this process.”
But Gov. Edwards warns there’s nothing the Senate can do to fix a budget with $650 million in cuts.
“There is no way to move that money around and make this budget one that is worthy of the people of Louisiana, that adequately funds our critical priorities.”
A second special session is what the Governor wants — where lawmakers can raise revenue and craft a budget at the same time.
Rep. Lance Harris (R-Alexandria), head of the House Republicans, says his caucus hasn’t officially taken a position on that.
“We want to see this go through the process on both sides of the capitol, everybody gets a bite at the apple, and then we see exactly what the needs are going to be," Harris said.
The state budget is now in the hands of the Senate, but it’s unclear whether they’re willing to pass a budget before raising new revenue.