House passes budget preserving TOPS, K-12, social services; higher ed takes cut
Louisiana's House approved a spending plan today that preserves the popular college scholarship program TOPS and keeps K-12 education and social services whole while avoiding severe cuts to other agencies in a bipartisan vote on next year's budget.
The House, dominated by a Republican majority, largely agreed to Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards' proposal to tap federal coronavirus aid to close a nearly $1 billion budget gap resulting from an economic collapse created by the pandemic.
There were few questions, no debate and none of the usual rancor as the House passed the plan, 101-0, after about an hour of discussion.
"Great job, Chairman," House Speaker Clay Schexnayder, R-Gonzalez, said after the bill passed an as he congratulated Rep. Jerome "Zee" Zeringue, R-Houma, chairman of the Appropriations Committee where the budget was crafted.
"It's about the best I think you can do given the (circumstances)," Edwards said last week.
Next year's budget begins July 1.
Not all agencies were spared cuts in the $30 billion spending plan. The bill trims funding for state colleges and universities, the health department and most other state agencies.
Higher education would suffer a $20 million cut, the health department a $40 million cut and smaller reductions to other agencies. None of the healthcare cuts would affect the Medicaid program.
It next moves to the Senate for a hearing in the Senate Finance Committee.
The budget won't clear the Legislature by the time the Regular Session ends June 1, so lawmakers have called themselves into a Special Session beginning on the same day to complete the work and send it to the governor for his signature.