Representatives reject Senate version of the budget just days before session's end
BATON ROUGE, LA — Louisiana Representatives decided to throw out the budget passed over to them from Senators. With just two days until the end of the session, the budget will now go to a conference for negotiations, made up of six senators and six representatives.
"It’s a normal process to go through. It’s nothing outrageous, and it doesn't mean we're not going to pass House Bill 1. It just means the two bodies need to sit together and work out a few more details," said Representative Cameron Henry, who will be one of the members making up the conference.
While Senators added more money into their now rejected budget, Representatives have a big problem using one time money, even if it means avoiding immediate cuts to healthcare and higher education.
"They reduced those cuts and we want to make sure that we have enough money to make sure we don't have any mid-year or end of year cuts because those usually fall on the backs of our higher education and department of health and hospitals," said Henry.
Senators were presented with some unique problems when they got the budget. They found out just how expensive those public-private hospital partnerships are going to be, and were forced to use some one-time money to fund the state's voucher program for another year.
"We haven't really had a chance on this side to look at this issue in depth because it only occurred on the Senate side. Right now the one time money for re-occurring expenses is a problem," shared Rep. Henry.
With representatives rejecting the amendments Senators added, as it stands there is not a funding source for the voucher program, something parents have said worries them this late in the game.
"It’s a little troubling because it's coming down to the end of the wire. I mean, we're at the end of the line and we need to make sure that we don't allow politics to get in the way," said Anthony White, parent of a child in the scholarship program.
While most legislators are promising to find a way to foot the bill for the voucher program, the funding decision could have some serious impacts on how many students get vouchers for years to come.
"I think one thing the House is dead set on is to continue funding for the students that are presently in the voucher system. I think there may be a debate in the next few days on the expansion of vouchers," said Senator Fred Mills, a member of the Senate Finance Committee.
If lawmakers can’t come to an agreement by Thursday at 6:00 p.m., they will be forced into a special session.