BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Louisiana lawmakers are hard at work to close the state's massive $1.6 billion shortfall, as they have just three more weeks to pass a budget. However, after HB 1 passed the House Thursday, there is a lot more new money available to fix the budget crisis.
The man behind the plan, Rep. Jim Fannin, R-Jonesboro, says his proposal raises enough money to fully fund higher education, healthcare and K through 12 schools.
"The House has faced obstacles that many of us have never seen before," Fannin said. "I'm proud to say that in face of those challenges, different groups of the House came together to identify the problems and develop a plan to fix those problems."
On the floor Thursday morning, Fannin introduced some new amendments to his budget, helping to raise a total of about $850 million to put toward next year's budget. Most of the money is from the 11 new tax measures the House passed two weeks ago.
Plus, new money was discovered last week in the Revenue Estimating Conference and some money was collected from Washington, too.
"By working together, we've done what some thought was impossible, and, by doing so, we have saved higher education and we have saved healthcare," Fannin added.
Other changes to the original budget include a move from Rep. Ted James to make Gov. Jindal pay for his own out-of-state travel costs.
"This will be an interagency transfer from the executive office to state police for the $2.5 million for out-of-state travel while he campaigns and ignores the needs of the people of Louisiana," said Rep. James, D-Baton Rouge.
Not everyone was happy though. A proposal from the man who wants to replace Gov. Jindal did not have the same luck.
Rep. John Bel Edwards' Medicaid expansion amendment would have brought in another $15 million while insuring 300,000 people.
"When we vote on this bill, we're not voting on it as we think it may be later. We're voting on how it stands before us, and it is not worthy of our people," said Rep. Edwards, D-Amite.
But most lawmakers disagreed, voting to pass the bill to the Senate.
Leaders hope to raise another $150 million to help solve more remaining budget issues. State parks, museums, prisons and the agriculture industry are still facing deep cuts.
The Legislature must pass a budget by June 11, the final day of session.
Following the vote, Gov. Jindal released a statement saying, "We appreciate the House's hard work moving the budget through the process today. We look forward to continuing to work with the Legislature as the budget now moves to the Senate."