Members of the Senate discuss HB1, the state budget, at the State Capitol on Thursday. (Associated Press)
Last Modified: Friday, June 01, 2012 1:51 PM
BATON ROUGE — Updates applied to the $25.6 billion state operating budget approved by the Senate on Thursday were necessary to avoid critical cuts to hospitals and schools, according to one Southwest Louisiana senator.
House Bill 1 by Rep. Jim Fannin, D-Jonesboro, included several changes made by the Senate Finance Committee earlier in the week. One of them restored one-time funds, which some House lawmakers are strongly against. The bill returns to the House for concurrence.
Sen. Ronnie Johns, R-Sulphur, said he did not want to include one-time money in the budget for the upcoming fiscal year, which begins July 1. But, he said, not using them would have crippled McNeese State University and W.O. Moss Regional Medical Center.
“(They) would’ve been absolutely devastated had we not done what we did,” he said.
Even after restoring the one-time funds, Johns said higher education is expected to be cut by $50 million, and that health care could be cut by $57 million.
Sen. Dan “Blade” Morrish, R-Jennings, said the proposed budget is not perfect, but lawmakers are running out of time to approve a balanced budget by Monday, June 4.
“In these economic times, it’s never fun to create a budget,” he said.
He expects the House to reject the budget plan, which would send it to a conference committee.
Several House lawmakers have voiced strong opposition to using one-time money in the budget, including Rep. Brett Geymann, R-Moss Bluff. Following the Senate vote, Geymann said he was disappointed by the outcome.
“I can tell you the (fiscal) conservative group in the House are not planning on voting for House Bill 1,” he said.
Johns said he supports Geymann’s position, but that he could not support severely cutting schools and hospitals.
“I think, philosophically, he’s right,” Johns said. “But there are times when we cannot allow higher education and health care to take a beating. That would have happened had we not restored these cuts.”