House passes state budget; changes to come in special session

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - The Louisiana House of Representatives passed the Senate version of the state operating budget Wednesday, but lawmakers say it doesn't resemble what will take effect on July 1.

The current version of the bill would cut each state agency's funding by 24 percent from the state general fund - the portion of the state budget that is available to spend freely.

TOPS would be funded at 70 percent, and the Department of Health would be fully funded. No sick or elderly people will be kicked out of nursing homes because of this budget.

"We have some gaps to fill in," said the bill's author, Rep. Cameron Henry, R-Metairie. "The most important thing is that LDH is covered and the folks that depend on that agency for those services don't have to worry about that now."

Some lawmakers, mostly Democrats, called today's budget "pretend," arguing that it wasn't necessary to vote in favor of a bill they know will change in a special session.

"We will not solve a real problem with pretend solutions because we don't represent pretend people," House Democratic Caucus Chair Robert Johnson said.

House Republican Caucus Chair Lance Harris says passing this budget gives the legislature a better idea of how much revenue it needs to raise.

"We are entering into the special session knowing exactly where the funding gaps are and reducing the potential tax burden to the people of this great state," Harris said.

Many lawmakers say any new revenue would first go toward TOPS and education through a supplemental bill.

Henry says the legislature is still debating exactly how big the budget shortfall is. The special session begins on Tuesday and many of the same tax instruments that failed in the last session are back again, notably the extension of a portion of the fifth penny of state sales tax.

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