Louisiana House moves $34B budget bill to Senate; shortfall worries linger

Local News

BATON ROUGE, La. (WVLA/WGMB) — Louisiana’s $34 billion operating budget bill is out of the state House and bound for the Senate, after passing its latest hurdle with no opposition votes Wednesday.

The spending plan would fully fund K-12, child welfare, food stamps, and merit-based tuition aid programs, thanks to about $560 million in federal coronavirus aid and the state-billed “rainy day fund.”

Most other state programs would see modest cuts, though not nearly as many as lawmakers had feared when the COVID-19 pandemic punched a $904 million revenue hole.

“This would be a standstill budget,” said state Rep. Jerome Zeringue, the Legislature’s appointed budget architect. “We’re not increasing it, but providing for the departments to get us into the next fiscal year.”

The proposed budget would take effect July 1 and run through June 30, 2021.

The outbreak’s continued impact — paired with uncertainty over whether more federal aid will come — leaves lawmakers fearing their revenue streams may not recover before the upcoming budget year ends. This state’s heavy reliance on oil and tourism add to the concerns, as the virus has left people weary to travel.

“I implore you to start thinking now about what we can do 13 months from now: what kind of changes we need to make as government, how we need to shrink the size of government responsibly to handle this,” state Rep. Lance Harris (R-Alexandria) told House members before the floor vote. “As you know, there’s not going to be an appetite for taxes.”

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