With $350 million more to spend in next year’s budget, The House Appropriations committee voted Monday to fully fund the TOPS scholarship program.
Rep. Franklin Foil’s (R-Baton Rouge) amendment allocated the majority of that revenue to TOPS and Go Grants, a needs-based financial aid program.
"I think it's important now since students are making decisions to send a message to our students that it's our priority to fully fund TOPS and Go Grants moving forward," Foil told members of the committee.
The plan got pushback from some committee members, like Rep. Gary Carter (D-New Orleans), who is concerned about massive cuts still facing the Department of Health.
"Your point," he said, "is that it's more of a priority that we fund TOPS than it is that we fund these emergency charity hospitals that we have throughout the state of Louisiana."
The state's private partners in New Orleans and Lafayette have threatened to close if they're under-funded, jeopardizing access to health care and graduate medical education in Louisiana.
Gov. John Bel Edwards does not support the changes. In a statement released Monday, he said the budget passed out of the committee "is not worth the paper it's printed on."
Pearson Cross is Assistant Dean at UL Lafayette’s College of Liberal Arts. He says it's unrealistic to think TOPS will remain fully funded.
"There are too many other competing interests. My guess is that if new revenue isn't found, TOPS would suffer some cuts in the back-and-forth between the House and Senate," he explained.
And the Senate is likely where the Governor's budget proposal will find more more favor, says Cross.
"I'd expect the Senate to take up this budget and throw out some of the House work and say we need more revenue or change their proposals," he added.
The full House is scheduled to debate the state budget bill Thursday.