State lawmakers scramble to agree on budget

State lawmakers scramble to agree on budget

BATON ROUGE, LA (WVUE) - State lawmakers scramble to agree on a budget with just hours remaining in the spring legislative session. Local colleges face millions in cuts as the clock winds down.

The battle over Louisiana's budget is turning into a game of who flinches first.

"I vote reject these amendments and send House Bill 1 to conference because of work we need to do on it," Jonesboro Representative Jim Fannin said on the House Floor.

The House recently rejected the Senate's passage of HB 1. The budget bill is under scrutiny from lawmakers mainly because of Governor Jindal's Save Plan.

The plan is a way to create a credit that would offset tax increases funding higher education and healthcare. It's the only way the governor says he will sign the budget. Jindal says without The Save Plan, it creates a net increase budget.

"[Governor Jindal] made a no tax increase pledge to Grover Norquist's group, Americans for Tax Reform, and he has not violated that to date. He needs a budget that he can sign without tax increases," Fox 8 Political Analyst Mike Sherman said. "The only way to get there is this Save Plan which is this faux tax credit to off-set this faux fee increase. It doesn't have any affect. The Senate is willing to go along with it. The house isn't. That's the gap right now."

Sherman said once the House denied Jindal's Save Plan, the governor threatened to cut $235 million from higher education.

"As [The Save Plan] is structured I don't see that it directly does any harm. The harm that comes from it is the appearance that we pass something that was considered a gimmick," Hammond Representative Chris Broadwater said.

If Jindal vetoes the budget in its current state, it would mean a nearly 40 percent cut across the board for higher ed.

The possible veto would come out to a $10 million cut for both Southeastern Louisiana University and UNO, a $9 million cut to Delgado, and a $42 million cut to LSU.

Broadwater is willing to meet the governor's demands despite what The Save Plan does or does not do to keep higher education funded.

"If I'm going to be embarrassed, I'd rather be embarrassed I voted for a gimmick, which can explain to folks that I did it to save higher education rather than saying I had the opportunity to protect you and I didn't and now our college may be irreversibly harmed," Broadwater said.

He said lawmakers can either agree with the Save Plan, come up with other ways to balance the budget or come together to override the governor's veto.

Lawmakers have until 6 p.m. Thursday to compromise on the issue.

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