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Louisiana Senate approves spending budget

The Louisiana Senate approved the state government’s $24.4 billion spending plan for the next fiscal year.

The changes proposed in House Bill 1 by the Senate amount to a 2.4 percent decrease in appropriations for the fiscal year that begins July 1.Seal_of_Louisiana_large

However, the approved budget contains at least $200 million more in spending than the House version. The extra amount was used to stop reductions to health services for the poor.

Senators have spent the past few weeks finding revenue and making spending cuts to bridge a $1.6 billion gap, all the while without making deep cuts to higher education and health care.

The budget will now returns to the House, where representatives have been vocal regarding added words that will meet Gov. Bobby Jindal’s no new tax stance and the doubling of a proposed increase on the tax for a pack of cigarettes.

Senators argue that removing the language would prolong the legislative effort by pushing Jindal to veto the budget bill.

Jindal has repeatedly has promised to veto any budget bill that raises revenues without equal decreases in taxes, making it revenue neutral.

Sen. Robert Adley, R-Benton, said senators had passed bills that raised hundreds of millions of dollars and protected higher education. Adley noted the majority of those dollars came from peeling back exemptions and credits given to businesses.

The budget approval came on the heels of a Senate Finance Committee approved $3.5 million increase to the budget in order to finance the Louisiana Supreme Court and other parts of the state judiciary beginning July 1.

Although legislators have struggled to fill the deficit, the Senate Finance Committee disagreed with the House decision to provide a standstill $176 million judicial budget.

Senators then approved the judicial budget without objection, along with a $98.4 million budget to finance the House, Senate and other legislative agencies next year.

Reports from the Associated Press contributed to this story.

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