The Governor will likely call a second special session in late May or early June to attempt to deal with the on-going financial problems in the state, following a House operating budget bill that squeaked by and that threatens cuts in higher education, hospital closures, and kicking 46,000 elderly and disabled out of their nursing homes beds.
The House barely passed House Bill 1 for the state’s operating expenses with a 55 yea to 47 nay vote on April 19. It has been pending in the Senate Finance since April 24.
The measure that squeaked by on April19 contains $648 million in cuts, reported the Advocate, and leaders from LSU medical schools in New Orleans and Shreveport are said to be asking for a remedy and delay so that medical residents, students, and faculty do not begin to look for safe harbors elsewhere. Additionally the effort would cut TOPS to 80 percent, the popular scholarship program for 50,000 Louisiana residents yearly.
The Advocate reported that 46,000 elderly and disabled would lose their nursing home placements and care as early as July if the House budget were passed.
The House vote was down party lines with the Republican House. Only one Democrat voted for the measure and eight republicans voted against the effort.
The Governor released a comment even before the vote, saying on April 16, “This budget document is not worth the paper it’s printed on, and gives nothing but false hope to students and parents who want to attend a Louisiana university or community and technical college. What we saw today from the House Appropriations Committee was not a serious attempt to tackle the problems we face.”
According to the Advocate, Republican leaders asked members to pass the budget to move it forward but said the health care cuts should not be taken seriously and could be balanced out by additional taxes passed in another special session.
In the first special session this year, the Legislature was unable to pass any tax measures to relieve Louisiana budget crisis. Two years ago lawmakers passed over $1 billion in temporary taxes but these expire. The House Fiscal Office estimated that $1.38 billion in revenue was expiring on June 30, 2018.
“I’ve proposed a plan that would replace a portion of the expiring revenue, resulting in a net tax reduction on the people of Louisiana by almost $400 million, while still imposing more than $120 million in state general fund spending cuts,” the Governor said before the House vote. “However,” Gov. Edwards said, “ we would adequately fund health care, higher education, and TOPS, among other priorities, most of which we are simply unable to fund under the House’s proposal or the executive budget.”