Lawmakers continue to debate budget as midnight deadline looms

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - There are just hours left for lawmakers to come up with a budget deal.

With House Bill 1 in conference committee, lawmakers in Louisiana are one step closer to fulfilling one significant, and constitutionally mandated, goal of the special session: pass a budget.

But if the legislature doesn't also raise revenue, then the state would be forced to cut services or come back for a third special session. The budget's author, Cameron Henry, R-Metairie, promised to bring the budget before the deadline whether there is a revenue deal or not.

"You will vote on House Bill 1, a House Bill 1 whether it's this one or another one, because I don't want to be here tomorrow, or in seven days," said Henry.

Right now, lawmakers are divided over how much of the state sales tax to extend, either 4.3 or 4.5 percent, a difference of about $200 million. House Republicans want to shrink the size of government through cuts, and Democrats want to cover as much of the hole as possible to fund services they call essential.

"And so if you want cuts, then this bill has got cuts for you, $205 million dollars of them. If you want tax cuts, then this bill envisions tax cuts of more than $400 million. If you want priorities funded, this bill has priorities funded," said Walt Leger, D-New Orleans.

There is a trigger in the budget that allows for proportional cuts in case the legislature does not raise the amount of money spent in the budget by Monday night's midnight deadline. There are also a number of last resort contingency plans that could allow the legislature to move some revenue and a budget in the event of a complete metl down.

Lawmakers say they are confident it'll be a late evening at the capitol.

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