DALLAS — The Louisiana Senate unanimously adopted a fiscal 2013 budget Thursday that relies on non-recurring revenues and proceeds from state property sales to restore more than $300 million of spending taken out earlier by the House.
Senators adopted the amended HB 1, the budget measure endorsed by the Senate Finance Committee earlier in the week, with only a $15 million reduction from the committee’s version.
“I feel comfortable with the budget we’re proposing,” said Sen. Jack Donahue, R-Mandeville, chairman of the Finance Committee.
The revision does not specify any spending cuts but directs the Division of Administration to determine where the money will come from. The House-approved version ordered $43 million of unspecified spending cuts.
The Finance Committee restored the spending cuts contained in the House budget after state officials testified that the reductions would devastate higher education, health care and corrections efforts.
The differences between the two versions of HB 1 must be resolved before the mandated end of the legislative session today to avoid a special session. Fiscal 2013 will begin July 1.
The Senate also adopted an accompanying revenue measure, HB 822 that balances the budget with the one-time revenues.
It moves into the general fund a total of $340 million by sweeping a variety of special state funds, proceeds from the sale of state property, and savings realized through debt refinancing.
The 329-page budget bill was part of a lengthy agenda being considered Friday by the House.
The House Appropriations Committee late Thursday approved a Senate plan to balance the fiscal 2012 budget by tapping the rainy-day fund.
The proposal sponsored by Donahue calls for transferring $204.7 million from Louisiana’s $600 million rainy-day fund into the general fund. The funding gap was caused by unexpected drops in income tax collections.
Conservative Republicans known as “revenue hawks” said they would fight the use of the one-time revenues in the fiscal 2013 budget.
Rep. Brett Geymann, R-Lake Charles, a leader of the revenue hawks, said his colleagues will not support the use of non-recurring revenues to balance the current budget as well as next year’s.
“We can’t do both,” he said.
Chairman Jim Fannin, D-Franklin, said the transfer is necessary because the shortfall cannot be resolved by cutting spending in the last month of the fiscal year.
“We can’t make up the budget deficit in the time that’s left,” he said.
The House needs only a simple majority to pass the fiscal 2013 budget, but the rainy-day fund transfer requires a two-thirds majority.
Donahue called for an examination of state tax policies, credits, and exemptions before the 2013 legislative session begins.
“What we need to do in my opinion is evaluate the revenues the state has and make sure those revenues are being used for the priorities in the state of Louisiana,” he said.