Lawmakers begin budget talks to avoid cuts in healthcare and higher education

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Gov. Bobby Jindal presented his budget for the new fiscal year at the start of the 2013 session and the work begins in earnest Monday to make the numbers add up.

A $24.7 billion operating budget for the 2013-2014 fiscal year is on the table and now it's up to lawmakers to work out the details. A plan to be discussed in appropriations would take $500 million in one-time money and use most of it to avoid cuts in healthcare and higher education.

"I'm not saying we don't use one-time money," said state Rep. Pat Smith, D-Baton Rouge. "The most important thing is how we use it and to put it right now. We have all this one-time money in healthcare and the higher education formula."

Legislators like Smith acknowledge the state has used one-time money in the past, but she said it does nothing to address what she believes is a revenue shortfall. It's an issue Smith said means some programs could still face cuts in the end.

"When the Senate puts the money back in, we still have to look down the road for familiar budget cuts and that's the fear that we'll still end up with if we don't find some recurring funds to put in the budget," Smith explained.

Just what those cuts might be will be up for debate, although Jindal announced last week a few groups like battered women's shelters in the state may be among the lucky few that stay off the chopping block.

"We're trying to find money, recurring money that's in the budget that we can use to be able to make some of these agencies whole," said Smith.

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