Plans To Divvy Up Louisiana Surplus Money Wins House Passage
BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — The Louisiana House agreed Monday to $300 million in spending plans for unbudgeted cash remaining from the state's last two budget years, earmarking much of the money to lessen state debts and finance construction work.
More than one quarter of the money would pay down a balance owed to health providers that care for Medicaid patients. Other dollars would pay off legal judgments against the state and lessen retirement debt. Money would flow to Louisiana's "rainy day" fund. Dollars would continue computer upgrades to state government's financial reporting system.
Gaps in current-year financing would be filled for the TOPS free college tuition program and the state's voucher program that sends students to private elementary and secondary schools with tax dollars.
The proposals move next to the Senate for debate. The money includes a $123 million surplus left from the budget year that ended June 30 and $176 million in unspent cash from the current year. Last year's surplus has constitutional restrictions on how it can be spent.
Among some of the largest spending plans in the two bills advanced by the House:
—$80 million would pay more than half of a back-owed debt to the managed-care companies that oversee services for most of Louisiana's Medicaid patients. In his last year in office, former Gov. Bobby Jindal pushed back a monthly payment to help close a midyear deficit. Gov. John Bel Edwards and lawmakers have continued to postpone that payment.
—$79.7 million would be split among construction projects, such as roadwork, state building repairs, community water system improvements and other local projects.
—$42 million would pay money owed to people who successfully sued the state.
—$30.7 million would flow into the rainy day fund savings account.
—$30.5 million would be spent on a computer project aimed at moving every state agency to the same accounting and financial management system, an ongoing project that started under Jindal and has cost the state about $100 million so far.
—$21.2 million would pay FEMA for a portion of Louisiana's share of ongoing disaster recovery efforts.
—$15.1 million would cover obligations to economic development commitments made by the state.
—$12.3 million would pay down state retirement debt.
House Bills 2, 874: www.legis.la.gov
– by Melinda Deslatte, AP reporter