BATON ROUGE, La. (BRPROUD) – After weeks of debate over if the legislature will bust the constitutional cap on spending, some holdouts in the House gave the go-ahead. It can now be applied to the state’s operating budget which still needs to be passed.
The state’s budget has gone through several changes since the governor’s original proposal. When it left the House it focused on paying down teacher retirement debt but took out teacher pay raises, investments into construction and reduced early childhood education.
Those in support of that plan said it was more fiscally responsible because it did not grow the state’s budget as much as the governor’s plan did. Some Republicans are sounding the alarm for a potential fiscal cliff after the half-cent sales tax rolls off and some of the vehicle tax is put into a construction fund rather than the budget.
“Those fiscally conservative budgeting principles is why we’ve accumulated these dollars and why those conservative responsible budgeting practices. We hope to continue to employ to address within this budget,” said State Rep. Jerome Zeringue, R-Houma.
The Senate put back a lot of those investments and made it so the legislators would have to bust the cap to fund local projects, supplemental pay, and hospitals. If the expenditure limit was not busted then that surplus money would have been funneled into the teacher retirement debt entirely.
“We’re in a position to have to consider or get SCR3 so that we can put that budget in a position so then we can negotiate what we hope to have. It’s a budget that will be in the best interest of the people of Louisiana,” Zeringue said.
Several conservatives did not want to budge, saying the state needs to slow growing the budget. Nineteen House members voted against the resolution. Thirty-six were needed to stop it.
“Having over $2 billion in excess of surplus money and wanting to go on a spending spree is not the extraordinary circumstance contemplated by the people of Louisiana,” said State Rep. Larry Frieman, R-Abita Springs.
The House rejected the Senate amendments in hopes to work out a deal in the final hours of the session. The budget will now go to a conference committee, which is a closed-door meeting, to work out any of the differences between the House and the Senate. The House will vote on the budget Thursday on the final day of the session.