State’s $26B budget OK’d by House

BATON ROUGE - The House of Representatives approved a budget late Sunday that no one was overly happy about.

At Gov. Bobby Jindal’s urging, the House approved the Senate’s version of the budget bill by a vote of 69-33. The Senate’s 26 billion bill threw out most of the cuts the House wanted and the bill uses money that hasn’t been recognized by the Revenue Estimating Conference.

Jindal sent a letter and e-mails to each House member stating that the bill had its problems but was the best that could be crafted.

Many of those who voted against the bill thought the money spent and the cuts reduced were irresponsible. According to Rep. Jim Morris, R-Shreveport, the cuts were reduced from $398 million to $70 million and they expect to have to make more cuts next year.

“We spent every dime we could put our hands on and some that wasn’t recognized,” he said. “I couldn’t vote for that.”

Joining Morris were other Shreveport-area state Reps. Richard Burford, Thomas Carmody and Wayne Waddell; Lafayette-area state Reps. Simone Champagne, D-Jeanerette, and Jonathan Perry, R-Abbeville; Alexandria-area state Reps. Frank Howard and Rick Nowlin and Speaker of the House Jim Tucker, R-Terrytown.

However, those who voted for the bill were not all celebrating. State Rep. Jane Smith, R-Shreveport, stated she didn’t think a better version would result from a conference committee, if one came out at all.

“We’re still going to be making major cuts in the next six months. Our colleges and hospitals know it,” she said.

State Rep. Billy Chandler, D-Dry Prong, said, “I see more good than bad” in the budget. He also believed there was a strong likelihood that the conference committee could run into a stalemate.

“My constituents are better served with this, rather than what could have happened,” Chandler said. Chandler attributed these thoughts to the $68 million restored by the Senate version. The House version was set to cut from charity hospitals and $50 million from higher education.

House Bill 1 was the House version of the state’s budget.

According to state Rep. Kay Katz, R-Monroe, the state will run a $2.2 billion deficit next year after restoring some of the cuts in this budget.

State Rep. Sam Jones, D-Franklin, credited Senate President Joel Chaisson for bring the Democratic Caucus together in support of the bill.

“This is probably the best we could come up with, considering the circumstances,” he said. “But it does leave the governor with a big job to do. This is the last year we can hold the budget together with Band-Aids.”

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