News alert: Lawmakers OK SAVE act, paving the way for a budget deal

After a highly emotional debate, the Louisiana House of Representatives passed by a vote of 59-43 the controversial SAVE program needed to avoid vetoes by Gov. Bobby Jindal to key revenue bills.

The provision was added to Senate Bill 93 by Sen. Robert Adley, R-Benton, and its passage released two months worth of tension out of the Capitol building Thursday afternoon. The Senate advanced the legislation to the governor as well by a 30-9 vote.

The SAVE, or Student Assessment for a Valuable Education, fund is being created to hold up to $350 million in revenue that lawmakers approved this year. The provision allows for an assessment to be levied against all of Louisiana’s university and college students, on average $1,600 per student but no more than $2,100. The students, however, would never pay the assessment, but a corresponding tax credit would be transferred to the Board of Regents, a tax-exempt institution. The Board of Regents would then distribute the money in the SAVE fund to the state’s higher education institutions.

Lawmakers complained the program was a convoluted way of meeting Jindal’s no net tax increase demand, but wooed enough in the House to claim victory. At one point, Rep. Ted James, D-Baton Rouge, attempted to filibuster by reading his horoscope description, but was halted due to House rules.