State House and Senate fail to reach compromise on state budget

Louisiana Legislature begins special session

BATON ROUGE, LA (WVUE) - With just 30 minutes left in the regular legislative session at the state Capitol, Rep. Cameron Henry, R-Metairie announced the House and the Senate were at a standstill, in terms of reaching a budget compromise.

Things normally go down to the wire with the state legislature on the final day of the session but this year a lot has been different.

Early on during the session the GOP-controlled state House of Representatives rejected the operating budget for state government put forth by Democratic Governor John Bel Edwards and passed one that spends less money than the state's revenue estimating panel projects will be available for the fiscal year that begins on July 1.

"Spending a hundred percent of a wrong number is not in the best interest of the state. That's a hundred percent of what R.E.C. has recognized. It's what we've done in the past and had mid-year deficits because of that," said Rep. Henry.

But but the Edwards administration said the budget approved to by the House will result in devastating cuts to agencies like the State Department of Health and state prisons.

On this final day of the session, State parole and probation officers showed up in force to emphasize their displeasure with the proposed spending cuts. The state Senate, which objected to the budget approved by the state House, passed its own version which utilized all of the projected revenues the state is expected to receive during the 2017- 2018 fiscal year.

"The Senate wants to make sure that we are adequately funding higher education. Making sure that there's a pay raise for state employees who haven't gotten one in 8 or 10 years. Making sure there are adequate funds for Children and Family Services. Presently when a child is being abused it takes three hours for us to be able to respond to them. We think we need to close that time," said Sen. Pres. John Alario, R-Westwego.

"I think it's still some of the craziness that we've seen for the last couple of years or so. I think the house side is really lacking leadership," said Sen. Wesley Bishop, D-New Orleans

"We have to appropriate every dollar, if they want to put some of it in reserves we offered to do that and we hold it out and make sure that we can make it through without another mid-year cut. But at this point the conversations are not productive," said House Speaker Pro Tem Walt Leger, D-New Orleans.

Gov. Edwards called a special session just in case the budget battle was not resolved to his liking by the 6 p.m. deadline for ending the regular legislative session

"You know that toward the end usually you have a bit more room to compromise. So I think that people are digging their heels in right now. But I'm still optimistic. We see this a lot," said Rep. Helena Moreno, D-New Orleans, hours before the deadline.

But in the end the session did not end the way many lawmakers had hoped and the special session was to begin in minutes.

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