The House Appropriations Committee took up its part of the budget fix Wednesday afternoon, making changes to the Governor’s plan to resolve the $304 million deficit for this fiscal year.
Among the changes proposed by Chairman Cameron Henry (R-Metairie) was a reduction to the amount being used from the Rainy Day Fund. The Governor has proposed using $119 million - one-third of the fund,which is the most they’re allowed to use. Henry's plan calls for $74.6 million to come from the Rainy Day Fund.
That’s a difference of about $44 million that has to be made up in additional cuts, which Henry says will be applied to different agencies, "hopefully not surpassing 5%.”
Some of those include a $6.2 million cut to Higher Education, $7.5 million to the Department of Education, $4.6 million from the Department of Corrections, and $28.8 million more from the Department of Health.
Speaker Pro Tempore Walt Leger (D-New Orleans) objected to the changes, explaining he "would hope that we will have an opportunity at some point as we debate this to actually hear from some of these agencies who are impacted."
Henry insisted it’s a matter of timing, with just seven days left in this special session. The Legislature has to present a plan to fix the $304 million budget hole by no later than Wednesday, February 22nd.
“We have to put something in people’s hands to get everything moving,” urged Henry.
The vote to approve the Henry’s plan fell along party lines, with fifteen Republicans and one Independent voting in favor and six Democrats against.
Representative Armes, a Democrat from Leesville, said the Legislature in Baton Rouge is no different than Washington, D.C.
“Our people are the ones suffering. We’re using politics and forgetting about the people of our state that need us right now,” he said.
The bill is expected to be heard on the House floor Friday.