Senate approves budget plan with fewer cuts, more Rainy Day dollars

Louisiana Senate (Source: WAFB)
Louisiana Senate (Source: WAFB)

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Members of the Louisiana Senate passed a budget cut proposal relying on more "Rainy Day Fund" dollars than their colleagues in the House.

The bill was amended on the Senate floor to use $99 million of those state savings. As a result, the plan as protects state agencies from reductions. That includes some of the governor's priorities, like the Department of Public Safety and Corrections and K-12 schools.

The Department of Health also takes a smaller hit.

Agency heads on Sunday warned that the House's plan to fix the state's $304 million shortfall could have some big consequences, including cutbacks to mental health services. It could have also required the Department of Corrections to release more than 2,000 prisoners, according to Sec. Jimmy LeBlanc.

The plan relies on a greater amount of "Rainy Day" dollars than the House plan, which only use $75 million. Even so, many Senate Democrats were not happy with the proposal. They wanted to use the $119 million the governor was asking for.

"When those rural hospital folks are calling you or the parks … when they lose those jobs and you can't keep them operating and you knock on those doors and they're closed at the DMV and the inspections aren't happening in certain places," Sen. Karen Carter Peterson, D-New Orleans, said on the Senate floor. "It takes money to run government."

Still, some Republicans and at least one Democrat argued that state spending should instead be reined in.

"I believe that there are savings that can be made without cutting the vital services and which would eliminate or reduce the need for using up Rainy Day funds," said Sen. John Milkovich, D-Shreveport.

The budget plan now heads back to the House, where it remains to be seen whether fiscal hawks will get on board with the proposal.

Lawmakers have until Wednesday at midnight to grind out a deal.

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