Update: The Senate approved the budget; it’s now before the House. See the live blog below for details.
Saturday, the state Senate will put the finishing touches on its version of the budget that takes effect July 1. The Senate will work with the version approved by the Senate Finance Committee on Wednesday. Look for some amendments when it goes to the Senate floor.
I will live-blog Saturday’s proceedings, starting at 9 a.m.
Senate Finance, in turn, rewrote the budget approved by the House on May 10. (For more on how the committee changed the budget, see Michelle Millhollon’s article for The Advocate and Melinda Deslatte’s for the Associated Press.)
The Senate has traditionally provided the budget that the governor wants. That has been especially true during Gov. Bobby Jindal’s tenure. The trick for the Senate now — especially for Senate President John Alario, R-Westwego — is to do that without alienating too many of the Democrats and conservative Republicans known as the Fiscal Hawks.
Last year, the House passed the budget with the support of more Democrats than Republicans.
State Rep. John Bel Edwards from Amite, who heads the House Democratic delegation, said Friday that his informal polling of his colleagues — Republicans and Democrats alike — led him to conclude that the Senate Finance Committee’s version of the budget would not pass the House. State Rep. Katrina Jackson, D-Monroe, who heads the Legislative Black Caucus, said that the 23 House members in her caucus (all Democrats) would oppose it.
Edwards and Jackson both cited an increase in funding for Jindal’s voucher program, but not for the public education formula, called the Minimum Foundation Program or MFP.
The Fiscal Hawks, for their part, want the Senate to approve their changes to the budget-writing process for future years, which would make it more transparent and give the Legislature more independence from the governor. The Fiscal Hawks — and many Democrats — don’t want to balance the budget with one-time money and funds contingent upon the sale of property or legal settlements. The Fiscal Hawk and Democrats got the House to strip out the one-time and contingent money, but the Senate Finance Committee added back much of it.
So it seems likely that the Senate will have to try to address some of the House’s concerns Saturday.
If the House rejects the Senate budget next week, the two chambers would go to a conference committee. The Senate president and the House speaker would each appoint three members to hash out the final version of the budget, which would have to be approved by both chambers.
Looming in the background is the possibility of a special session if the two sides can’t agree on a budget by 6 p.m. Thursday.