The House Appropriations Committee is expected to approve a budget today for next fiscal year that will contain 648-million dollars in cuts from the current fiscal year. When the budget process started, lawmakers had a nearly billion dollar budget deficit, but an increase in tax collections has led to a much smaller fiscal cliff. Appropriations Chairman Cameron Henry says his committee wants to use that newly recognized revenue for TOPS.
Henry says, "We have students right now trying to determine what school they're trying to go to, and I think that letting them know that, at least for the first step of the budget process, members are understanding of the importance of TOPS."
Henry says providing more money for district attorneys is another top priority for the committee. He says they also want to adequately fund the state’s waiver program, which provides assistance for those who are disabled. But the state health department and all state agencies can anticipate a cut in funding.
Henry says that funding may be replenished by next year's economy, but everyone will experience "a little bit of a cut" as of right now.
Governor Edwards is pushing the legislature to end the regular session early, so a special session can begin in May to approve tax bills that can lead to more revenue and reduce the budget gap. Henry says it’s too early to tell whether the House believes another special session is needed.
Henry says, "Some members may be comfortable with the cuts; other members may feel, because they have a hospital and a university in their districts, that low revenue is generated."