La. Senate forced to consider deeper cuts after House budget plan includes already used dollars

La. Senate forced to consider deeper cuts after House budget plan includes already used dollars
Senate Finance Committee (Source: WAFB)
Senate Finance Committee (Source: WAFB)
(Source: WAFB)
(Source: WAFB)

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - The supplemental budget plan passed by the La. House included $27 million that was already allocated, according to Senate leaders.

Lawmakers can compensate for the double-counted dollars by either increasing cuts or generating more revenue through tax legislation.

"[$27 million] is big dollars, so they had to determine how we're going to arrange that. And what areas a subtraction would be coming from. That is a difficult thing to do when money is tight like this," said Senate President John Alario, R-Westwego, who described the $27 million as being "out of whack."

The money in question came from savings from Medicaid expansion. That money was already allocated in the budget plan passed during the regular session, according to Sen. Eric LaFleur, D-Ville Platte. LaFleur chairs the Finance committee, which handles the budget for the Senate.

The House passed the supplemental bill - including those double-counted dollars - Monday afternoon.

Meanwhile, lawmakers in the Senate Finance Committee stalled introducing their own budget plan by a day.

LaFleur said that most members of the committee are in agreement over priorities. That includes increasing funding to the state's graduate medical programs, which are short millions of dollars next year.

However, in exchange for increasing funding to the medical schools as well as compensating for the double-counted money, funding for the state's public schools (and the MFP) may "bear the burden," according to LaFleur.

"Everybody wishes they had more, but nobody wants to vote for a tax. That's the paradox that we all find ourselves in, but that's just the way it is," LaFleur said.

Senate leaders are currently mulling a plan to generate more money next year. Alario said they are considering amending a tax bill still waiting on the Senate floor to bring in an additional $88 million next year.

The plan would involve modifying HB 50 to include a provision restricting what itemized deductions individuals can claim on their personal income tax.

While charitable donations, medical expenses, and home mortgages could still be claimed, the state income tax as well as the state and local sales tax could not.

The change would only impact upper income earners, including those making more than $100,000 per year.

It is questionable whether the House and even the full Senate would buy onto the idea. The House killed a bill which have accomplished the same change Sunday evening.

The Senate Finance Committee will introduce their budget plan Wednesday morning.

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