The final act of this year’s special session trilogy is less than a week away, with the administration and many legislators scrambling to find some extra cash for programs like TOPS, which is facing a 30 percent cut. House Appropriations Chairman Cameron Henry says the Department of Health is one place the state should look if it wants to plug the budget gaps.
"They came up with an additional $40 million, that was a surplus that they had, that they didn't tell anyone about until the last possible moment," says Henry, "I think people are really beginning to question their sincerity on exactly how much money they need."
The Metairie Republican says LDH has 110 million dollars in funded vacant positions, which are jobs that have money allocated, but are not currently filled. The Representative says it would take roughly 90 million dollars to fund the remainder of TOPS.
Henry says the legislature could also consider taking away state workers’ pay raises to fill part of the budget gap, saying of those pay raises, "It's going to cost us about thirty or forty million dollars this year. It's going to cost us an additional $85 million next year."
The half-cent sales tax that came close to passage last session had a six year sunset, which Henry says would lead to another fiscal cliff crisis in the early 2020s. Henry recommended a gradual fade out of whatever taxes are passed to lead to the more manageable budget situation.
The session starts on Monday.