TOPS fully funded as Louisiana lawmakers pass state budget

A $28 billion-plus Louisiana operating budget won final legislative passage today, a week after a stalemate in the spending negotiations forced lawmakers into a special session.

Following a 26-9 vote, the Senate sent the bill to Gov. John Bel Edwards, who supports it, according to The Associated Press.

A package of state construction financing plans awaits consideration in the House. If approved this afternoon, the special session will end before the Monday deadline.

Senate leaders successfully worked to avoid rewriting or tweaking the operating budget to negate a second vote in the House, where it narrowly passed against the wishes of the House GOP leadership.

The spending plan for the fiscal year that begins July 1 would keep most agencies free of cuts and fully funds TOPS. More than 38,000 state government workers would get 2% pay raises, and dollars would be allocated to open a vacant new juvenile prison in Acadiana.

“It’s austere, but it’s smart and it’s reasonable,” said Senate Finance Chairman Eric LaFleur, a Ville Platte Democrat. “It’s a good budget.”

Prisons, state police, public colleges and the child welfare agency would be among those areas shielded from reductions. It would be the first time college campuses would be spared cuts to their state financing in nearly a decade.

Some programs would see cuts. Mental health services would get less money, as would a program for “medically fragile” children and the private operators of Louisiana’s safety-net hospitals and clinics. Reductions to the safety-net hospitals could possibly be shifted to the LSU medical schools whose doctors and students get paid to work at the facilities.

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