The fact that the Louisiana Department of Health makes up nearly half of the state’s entire budget is a point that both sides of the spending debate often cite. Fiscal conservatives say it signals an agency far too big, while LDH leaders argue that it highlights the state’s prioritization to healthcare.
The upcoming year’s proposed budget calls for about $15 billion to LDH, but Secretary Rebekah Gee says the spending plan still lacks funds for other health services. She’s fighting to win back 44 million dollars that the House took out of the department’s wishlist.
“We’re hoping to fix it, so that we don’t have to cut vital services like care facilities that take care of the developmentally disabled, increasing the pay for people who take care of the elderly or those with disabilities,” Gee said.
Critics on the Senate Finance Committee on Monday questioned how much money the department is getting in statutory dedications. They also voiced concerns over how prepared the state coffers would be should the economy hit another downturn.
“Whether it’s a year that we have more money or a year that we don’t have more money, it’s all taxpayer dollars,” said Sen. Sharon Hewitt, a Slidell Republican. “There’s no rule that says we have to spend every dollar in state government.”
Senate budget hearings continue Tuesday with the departments of justice, agriculture and insurance.