The Senate Finance Committee on Wednesday advanced a supplemental spending plan that would put more money toward higher education and prisons, largely at the expense of funding for local school districts.
Lawmakers have a day left to hash out a final budget for the coming year, after spending nearly 19 consecutive weeks trying to solve the financial cliff the state faces as it barrels toward the budget that begins July 1.
Senate Finance Chair Eric LaFleur, D-Ville Platte, said that the budget proposal may not be a final version of the budget, but he said the committee wanted to advance House Bill 69, which currently carries about $258 million in funding on top of the money allocated in the regular session, for further negotiations as the clock winds down on the Legislature’s second special session.
HB 69 now heads to the full Senate for consideration before further negotiations between the House and the Senate.
LaFleur said that the Senate could consider the spending proposal as early as this evening, if an effort to gin up more money through amending a separate bill is successful. Otherwise, HB 69 will likely be held until Thursday -- the final day of the session.
Senate President John Alario, R-Westwego, said Wednesday that he’s not sure if the votes are there to bring in more tax dollars.
Gov. John Bel Edwards had called on lawmakers to approve additional revenue-generating measures to bridge what was estimated as a $600 million gap in the coming year. Still short of half-way to that goal, some legislators continue to hold out hope for more revenue.
But even as some eyed additional dollars, the Senate Finance Committee discovered that the has even less money to work with than the House version of the budget included.
The House had calculated about $24 million that had already been spent in the nearly $26 billion budget bill approved during the regular session.
The latest version fully funds colleges and universities, as well as providing what LaFleur said he believes will be adequate funding for the state’s medical schools.
The Senate Finance plan keeps funding for the popular Taylor Opportunity Program for Students funded at about 70 percent, as was provided when HB 69 left the House floor earlier this week.
Advocate reporter Tyler Bridges contributed to this report.