BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - In a tight vote, lawmakers at the Louisiana State Capitol elected to take $72 million from TOPS and give it to the partnership hospitals across the state which care for the uninsured.
The House voted 49-43 Thursday night to remove about one quarter of the college scholarship program's approximately $300 million budget.
"It does no good to fully fund TOPS if our universities are filling financial exigency all over the place," said Rep. Robert Shadoin, R-Ruston. "So, I know this isn't exactly what you expect to hear but that's my feeling on it and that's where I stand."
The original House plan, which passed out of the House Appropriations Committee on Monday, called for TOPS to be fully funded while the state's partnership hospitals received an across the board cut.
That proposal, sponsored by Rep. Cameron Henry, R-Metairie, had Shreveport's partnership hospital receiving a 40 percent cut to funding, while Our Lady of the Lake Medical Center in Baton Rouge would see an 8 percent reduction in state funding
Speaking on the House floor, DHH Secretary Rebekah Gee called those cuts "draconian" and said they could lead to all LSU doctor residency programs closing.
The cost associated with the partnership hospital contracts also came under fire during floor debate. Negotiated during the Jindal administration, they now cost DHH more than the Charity Hospital System.
Budget debates continue on the House floor Friday.