LA's PRETEND BUDGET -- So Louisiana's Regular legislative session is scheduled to come to a close in four days, four days in which to get a state budget approved and before the Governor's desk but as things stand now.... there will be a special session to address what remains to be fixed in what has been put together to save charity hospitals and healthcare at the expense of other government agencies.
Last week, the Senate Finance committee made some adjustments to the budget, but to say committee members were less than enthusiastic would be an understatement. Finance Chairman, Sen. Eric LaFleur (D-Ville Platte), termed the state spending plan as a "pretend budget" and had a few other words to share about it as well during the committee hearing.
"This is the craziest most cockamamie budget we could ever pass, but it helps us to demonstrate the magnitude of the problem," said LaFleur. "You lose a billion dollars of revenue, you can't just continue to operate, even under status quo."
he Senate Finance Committee's version of the budget would fund many of the health care programs that were cut, approved by passed the House of Representatives..., things like the state's safety net hospitals, and a Medicaid program that allows thousands of elderly to live in nursing homes; this move was aimed at preventing more than 30,000 nursing home residents from being evicted due to cuts. Senator LaFleur: "The way it came from the House hurt tons of people, the most fragile people, but we're replacing them at the expense of other basic, core services that are in state."
The committee took nearly 25 percent from more than a dozen state agencies. TOPS suffered another cut as well. It's now 70-percent funded. Even though the budget passed unopposed, members aren't suggesting it should become law. But by making changes, they let their funding priorities be known.Senate President John Alario (R-Westwego) pointed to the tug of war between funding for higher ed and health care, saying ". . . . if we have to make a choice, we chose life first."
And so the Senate Finance Committee's budget plan goes to the Senate FLoor where some political insiders say the hope here now is for both the Senate and House to find some common ground. However if the Senate's version goes too far against what the House has already approved... there's much doubt in Baton Rouge that a budget solution will happen before the Special Session which is expected to convene in one week.