Lawmakers in the House were able to get just enough votes to pass a budget that cuts $650 million in spending. Now, it’s up to the Senate to determine what happens next.
The budget’s first stop will be the finance committee, led by Sen. Eric LaFleur (D-Ville Platte).
“It is absolutely irresponsible and unacceptable to pass a budget, for example," says LaFleur, "that would decimate health care, not only for poor people, but probably for just about everybody in the state, and most importantly, medical schools. I don’t think anyone on our committee finds the current budget acceptable.”
LaFleur says there isn’t much the Senate can do about the budget cuts, because they can’t replace the revenue needed to fix them in this regular session.
"We know it’s not going to work, we know we can’t shut down health care in Louisiana. We know the economic implications for the whole state. That’s why this is, it's really just an exercise in nothing," he says.
Sen. Conrad Appel (R-Metairie) is a member of the Senate Finance committee. He says the current budget is far from its final version, and moving it through the Legislature is a process: "first step being the House, second step being the Senate, third step being the special session to complete the budget.”
Gov. John Bel Edwards is pushing for the Legislature to wait until a special session to pass a budget, so they can raise the revenue needed to balance it and avoid deep cuts to agencies like the Department of Health.
But Republican leaders in the House, like Appropriations Chairman Cameron Henry (R-Metairie), say passing a budget before a special session will give them a better idea of what it will take to fill the budget holes.
"We’ll be raising the revenue we actually need, not what the Governor wants," says Henry.
Henry defended the budget passed out of the House last week, saying it only spends the money available.