Lawmakers work to fill state budget deficit – Minden Press-Herald
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Lawmakers work to fill state budget deficit

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Louisiana lawmakers are still hashing out the numbers as the deadline for the 2017 special session looms.

The deadline is Wednesday at midnight, and the Senate spent Sunday reworking a House plan that made larger cuts than Gov. John Bel Edwards wants. Edwards presented a plan that would use about $119 million from the rainy day fund, while making $60 million worth of cuts across the board, instead of to just higher education and healthcare.

Rep. Gene Reynolds said no vote has been taken on a final bill to close the hole. House Bill 3 is the bill that will implement the cuts, if passed. Reynolds introduced an amendment that would stop a 3 percent cut to TOPS in higher education, but it was killed, he said.

“We sent a resolution to use $99 million of the rainy day fund, and House Concurrent Resolution 1 that would cut all statutory dedications 3 percent next year,” he said. “I voted against the statutory dedication bill because if all the statutory dedications are cut, that would include TOPS, our Camp Minden fire training, road projects and other areas such as tourism. They said they would back fill these, but there was no language saying that in the bill. If it comes back with protection for vital areas, I will vote for the resolution.”

The resolution will be debated in the regular session in April, he said.

The plan passed by the House would use about $75 million of the rainy day fund while making $115 million in reductions.
The rainy day fund currently holds about $360 million. Reynolds said the legislature are required by statute to put $25 million into the rainy day fund, and they are not allowed to use more than one-third of the balance at a time.

The most talked about areas that take the brunt of most cuts area education and healthcare. The governor’s plan would cut about $1.2 million from the Department of Education, and the House’s proposal is about $8.75 million. From healthcare, the governor is proposing to cut $36.5 million from the Department of Health, $367,000 from the Office of Public Health
and $2.8 million from the Office of Behavioral Health.

The house’s proposal is to cut $57.3 million from the Department of Health, about $2 million from the Office of Public Health and $3.9 million from the Office of Behavioral Health.