A Senate budget panel has advanced legislation that would cut funding for state agencies more than Gov. John Bel Edwards has proposed but significantly less than the House has agreed should be cut from the budget that ends June 30.
After days of testimony about the impact cuts could have on state services, the Senate Finance Committee approved its version of House Bill 122 on Thursday -- signaling a potential end to the gridlock that has hit the state Capitol this week as lawmakers attempt to solve the $900 million budget crisis before the special session ends next week.
The latest version of HB 122 now goes to the full Senate for consideration and, because of changes, will eventually send the two chambers into negotiations over the final tally.
The Senate’s version, which was only publicly unveiled shortly before its approval in the Finance Committee, would require the House to agree to $83 million more in tax hikes than has already been approved. Another $34 million would be needed to prevent deeper cuts to health care and higher education.
The Senate’s plan would restore most of the $44 million that would have been taken from the Department of Education. Leaders said such a deep cut would have decimated the agency, ending funding for college admissions tests and the state’s voucher program.
The House has spent this week putting off proposals to increase various taxes, including those on cigarettes and alcohol, waiting for word from the Senate on what cuts it would agree to.
The House version of the bill proposed more than $100 million in cuts. The version that passed the Senate Finance committee restored more than half of those cuts, reducing the budget by about $36 million, instead. Edwards had proposed a $29 million trimming of the budget, which would be offset by tax increases to fill the nearly $1 billion gap.
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