La. House sends budget bill that largely protects TOPS to the Senate

La. House sends budget bill that largely protects TOPS to the Senate
Updated: May. 31, 2018 at 6:10 PM CDT
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BATON ROUGE, LA (WVUE) - With mere days left in the special session, the House of Representatives approved a nearly $29-billion dollar operating budget for the fiscal year which begins July 1.

The spending plan was authored by Metairie Republican State Rep. Cameron Henry, who chairs the House Appropriations Committee.

It would fund the popular TOPS scholarship program at 90 percent.

Sheriffs across the state who house state prisoners in local jails would receive less funding, but the House approved operating budget protects against cuts to the state's safety-net hospitals, like University Medical Center in New Orleans, nursing homes and some programs for the elderly and disabled.

Still, the Louisiana Department of Health estimates the total impact of other cuts would be a half-billion dollars when lost federal matching dollars are factored in. And it said it would have to eliminate or downsize mental health and substance abuse programs, along with services for children with developmental disabilities.

The Senate must still consider the House budget bill.

House Speaker Pro Tempore Walt Leger tried to get House members to send a duplicate budget proposal to the Senate for consideration as a safeguard just in case Rep. Henry shelved his HB1 budget bill on the final day of the special session over any changes made to it by the Senate.

"In all likelihood, House Bill 1 will continue to move through the process and will be the bill that we get to vote on, on the last day. As long as we're guaranteed the opportunity to do that I will be happy, but I think the only way to ensure that is to continue to move on a parallel track," Leger told lawmakers.

But Rep. Henry assured members of the lower chamber he would not engage in such a last-minute move.

"I'm giving you that word, as soon as the bill comes over if we love it, we can move it on. If we want to send it to conference we can do that, too. If conference committee falls apart, I'm not talking 30 minutes before the end, we'll know whether it's going to work or not, I will bring the bill right back out to you and we can get out of here," said Rep. Henry.

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