Louisiana Senate panel advances budget with fewer cuts


 Louisiana senators will consider a state budget Sunday that restores cuts to health and higher education, by leaning on more revenue than the House has proposed.

The $29 billion budget advanced Saturday by the Senate Finance Committee assumes lawmakers will pass $540 million in replacement revenue, roughly $140 million more than what House members included in their spending plan.

Senate panel members recommended using the additional dollars to fund TOPS tuition aid costs, safety-net hospitals, child welfare and nursing homes, while restoring dollars to mental health, prisoner housing and substance abuse programs, which previously faced cuts under the House’s version of the budget.

Private schools, senior centers, state parks, the attorney general’s office and the Office of Juvenile Justice would still lose funds, in order to offset the remainder of a projected $648 million budget gap.

Senators hinge their spending plan on passing a 4.5 percent sales tax rate, to keep half of the fifth penny that expires July 1. So far, the House has only agreed to a 4.33 percent rate, with ranking Republicans critical of additional revenue-raising measures.

The Senate’s spending and revenue plans still face scrutiny in the House. The chambers don’t have much time to settle differences. Their special legislative session must end Monday at midnight.

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