House Republican leaders on Tuesday privately proposed covering a mid-year budget deficit in part by cutting spending on K-12 schools, public colleges and universities and the prison system but then withdrew the plan in the face of strenuous objections by Gov. John Bel Edwards and a lack of support from its own members.
GOP leadership also canceled an Appropriations Committee hearing scheduled for Tuesday afternoon during which the Republican-controlled committee was to take up the budget cuts favored by the leadership.
The events took place on the first full day of a nine-day special session called by Edwards to close a $304 million shortfall.
The House leadership’s retreat on both fronts indicates sharp divisions within the ranks of Republicans, who hold a majority in both the state House and Senate. The governor is a Democrat who counts on strong support from his party in both chambers as well as the Senate, which is more moderate than the House.
The Louisiana House Republican leadership had been looking to close the state's $304 million budget deficit by cutting higher education, prisons, K-12 schools and other state agencies instead of taking total advantage of state rainy day funding set aside to assist with financial emergencies.
The House plan presented to Gov. John Bel Edwards Tuesday (Feb. 14) called for $50 million in rainy day funding to be drawn down instead of the $119.6 million that's available -- and that the governor wants to use.
Instead of tapping all of the rainy day money, the House budget plan relied on $70 million worth of new reductions to public colleges, K-12 education, prisons and other areas of state government. Agencies would have had to absorb the extra cuts in the last four months of the year, before the budget ends on June 30.
The governor rejected this House leadership proposal Tuesday morning, with his staff calling it a non-starter in interviews. In his budget deficit plan, Edwards avoided cuts to colleges and prisons in part by using all the rainy day money he is allowed to tap. By law, the governor and lawmakers can withdraw one third of the rainy day funding annually to deal with midyear deficits. That figure is equal to the $119.6 million Edwards has proposed using to spare some services.