BATON ROUGE, La. (WVLA/WGMB) — The Louisiana Legislature faces as tightening timeline in its constitutional duty to pass a state budget by Tuesday night.
Lawmakers returned to the State Capitol Monday morning wondering if they would send a $35 billion budget bill to Gov. John Bel Edwards’ desk a day early. Such hopes dwindled by early afternoon, as a conference committee yielded no immediate compromise between state House and Senate members.
State Rep. Jerome Zeringue, who chairs the House’s budget panel, remains confident members will make a deal as early as Tuesday morning, claiming the discrepancies are minor.
“The reality is we’re trying to work it through as soon as possible,” Zeringue told BRProud.com in an interview Monday. “The main thing is to be consistent with passing a conservative budget that can keep our state going.”
The budget, as proposed so far, would fill a $900 million revenue gap the COVID-19 pandemic has left. That money would come from the federal CARES Act and the state’s so-called “rainy day fund.”
One bill lawmakers did work through Monday would give $250 to workers on the front lines during the pandemic’s early stages. To qualify, an employee must have made less than $50,000 last year and worked more than 200 hours between Mar. 22 and May 14. The legislation, by state Rep. Sam Jenkins, goes to Gov. Edwards’ desk after the House gave it unanimous support.
“We believe that these frontline workers can use this money to catch up on back-to-school expenses, to catch up on utilities, to catch up on rent,” Jenkins said. “I think a good message is coming from the Legislature.”
Lawmakers must close their special session by 6 p.m. Tuesday, as their budget must take effect Wednesday.
A second special session of the year may come this fall, to address any more fiscal fallout prompted by the coronavirus outbreak.