After days of closed-door negotiations, the Louisiana House backed a nearly $25 billion budget Friday that deeply diverges from spending plans recommended by Gov. Bobby Jindal.
BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) - After days of closed-door negotiations, the Louisiana House backed a nearly $25 billion budget Friday that deeply diverges from spending plans recommended by Gov. Bobby Jindal.
Lawmakers objected to Jindal's proposal to use $500 million in uncertain financing from property sales, legal settlements, fund sweeps and other items that haven't yet happened and that would only drum up money for one year.
The House compromise would replace those dollars with more than $60 million raised from trimming tax break programs, $133 million in cuts to state agencies and $200 million expected from a tax amnesty program.
A 93-5 vote sent the budget for the 2013-14 fiscal year that begins July 1 to the Senate for debate.
"We replaced the one-time money and contingencies with real dollars," said Rep. Brett Geymann, R-Lake Charles, a leader in the budget negotiations.
To make the numbers balance, however, the compromise would use some short-term fixes, like the dollars from the amnesty program, and assumes $90 million in improved revenue estimates that haven't yet been projected.
Questions have been raised about whether the numbers work. The Legislature Fiscal Office analysis, for example, doesn't confirm estimates of how much could be raised by the amnesty program, saying the collection rates were unclear.
The bipartisan plan was a rare showing of independence for lawmakers who traditionally follow the governor's lead. Jindal opposes pieces of the package that he considers a tax hike.
Leaders of the Republican delegation, the Democratic caucus and the black caucus worked together to devise the final deal.
"It was a great week for the House of Representatives. It was a great week for the people of Louisiana," said House Speaker Chuck Kleckley, R-Lake Charles.
Appropriations Committee Chairman Jim Fannin, D-Jonesboro, who handles the budget bill, didn't necessarily agree with the final approach crafted, but he didn't object to its passage.
"I understand what a process is, and I understand how important it is, even though to the outside community it looks like a mess. At the end of the day, democracy truly works," Fannin said.
As part of the package, lawmakers overwhelmingly supported proposals to trim tax breaks for big box retailers, the film industry and the oil and gas industry.
They also agreed to bills tweaking the budget process, to limit the use of patchwork funding for ongoing programs. And they backed a tax amnesty program, which would stretch over 30 months and allow delinquent taxpayers to pay overdue taxes with eliminated or lessened penalties as a way to generate upfront cash for the budget.
Those measures were sent to the Senate - and debate then began on the budget bill.
Jindal considers about $40 million in changes to tax break programs a tax increase on businesses.
Supporters of the plan said they were closing corporate tax loopholes to help stop deep cuts to health services and public colleges and didn't consider the tax break changes a tax hike.