La. legislature cuts LDH by $100M, but will it stay that way?

After a closed-door meeting, state lawmakers slapped a plethora of amendments to the state’s budget.
Published: Jun. 12, 2023 at 4:44 PM CDT
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BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - After a closed-door meeting, state lawmakers slapped a plethora of amendments to the state’s budget. Many who were not included in those meetings said they were unaware they were voting on a large cut for the state’s health department.

Senate members wanted to invest more money in projects, while House members wanted to pay off more debt.

“They had an intention to pay down more debt. And so, the money had to be captured somewhere,” said Senate President Page Cortez (R) after the session wrapped up.

“When you look at paying down that debt and getting us ahead of where we had been in the past, that was part of it,” said House Speaker Clay Schexnayder (R).

Rep. Schexnayder says while the budget was being moved around and debated, he was never told the cuts would have an impact.

“I don’t know if anybody told us anything was going to be impacted, nobody’s called us up and said anything. This is our process, and this is what we come up here and we work hard to do all the time,” the Speaker explained.

However, Governor John Bel Edwards says at no point was the Health Department aware they could have their funds slashed. And he says officials were also never questioned during committee about the potential impacts.

“And what would that look like, what reductions in federal funding would result, and how would that impact your delivery of services, and so...It just didn’t happen,” said the governor in his press conference following the end of session.

Both the House Speaker and Senate President say LDH came to members of both chambers asking for a different amount of money. And says the total they agreed on in their meeting was somewhere in the middle.

“There is a different ask...but what I think we did is take the combination between both and we were able to settle where we were,” the Speaker added.

Senator Cortez says regardless of the confusion, any problems that surface due to the cuts can be resolved throughout the year.

“We can work through a lot of this, we have opportunities in joint budget throughout the rest of the year. We’re not gonna let the people of Louisiana in the healthcare arena suffer. That’s not the intention of this,” the Senate President assured folks.

The Department of Health says, in part, they’re “Aware of the budget cuts and are evaluating the impact on services the department provides. The department’s priority is to continue services to our most vulnerable residents uninterrupted”.

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