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.
"We have students trying to determine which school they are going to go to," Henry said. "And I think letting them at least through the first step of the budget process members are understanding the importance of TOPS," Henry said.
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.
"I think it's prudent for everyone to take a little bit of a cut," Henry said. "Maybe the economy turns around next year and we can do something moving forward, but at this point that's where we are."
Governor John Bel 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.
"I think some members maybe comfortable with the cut, other members maybe feel because they have a hospital and university in their district more revenue is generated," Henry said.