Bill looking to put limits on TOPS unanimously passes House Education Committee

Bill looking to limit TOPS unanimously passes House Education Committee - 6 p.m.

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Proposed changes to the TOPS program were approved in a House committee on Wednesday, but it does not have the support of Gov. Bobby Jindal.

SB 48, authored by state Sen. Jack Donahue, R-Mandeville, passed unanimously in the House Education Committee. It would put limits on TOPS, likely making it more expensive to go to college.

Donahue's bill would eliminate the automatic increases in scholarship money when tuition goes up. He says it's an idea that would protect TOPS, ensuring its future.

However, Gov. Jindal's office does not see the bill the same way.

"The bill restricts how TOPS award amounts go up in the future. That is capping the program," said Stafford Palmieri with the governor's office. "The Legislative Fiscal Office realized that in their fiscal note and they call it a cap in the fiscal note, too."

However, Sen. Donahue says that's not the case. He said there's a difference between a cap and what he's trying to do.

"A cap would be if you said, 'Okay, we don't want to spend more than x number of dollars,'" Donahue said. "And, every time you hit a new student, you'd have to divide that number in. Everybody would get less and less every year."

The bill has already cleared the Senate. It now goes to the House floor where a similar measure to limit TOPS died Tuesday in a close vote.

"There will be another discussion about whether or not TOPS should be capped or not and I think the constituents of Louisiana do not want to see this program capped," said Palmieri.

"TOPS is going to continue to grow this way. It's just a reasonable approach to be able to work with the program," said Sen. Donahue.

A second higher education bill from Sen. Donahue also sailed out of the committee Wednesday. It would give public schools the authority to set their own tuition.

Both bills would ultimately need the approval of Louisiana voters.

TOPS has been fully funded since 2008. This year it will cost taxpayers $250 million.

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