DALLAS — The Louisiana Senate Finance Committee on Monday restored $340 million of budgets cuts made by the House in the $25.5 billion budget for fiscal 2013.
The Senate Finance Committee met Memorial Day to undo the House’s actions by allowing the use of $267.7 million of one-time revenues in the 2013 spending plan.
Another $73 million was added to the budget in defiance of a House amendment directing Gov. Bobby Jindal’s administration to find an additional $43 million of unspecified spending reductions next year.
The House made the spending cuts at the urging of a group of conservative Republicans lawmakers who dubbed themselves “revenue hawks.” The House rejected contentions by administration officials that proposed budget cuts to higher education, health care and prisons would be too severe.
The Senate committee also unanimously approved a resolution taking $220 million from the rainy-day fund to cover a revenue shortfall in fiscal 2012.
The Revenue Estimating Conference determined in mid-April that lower-than-expected revenue from the income tax would create a budget shortfall in the fiscal year that ends June 30. The revenue panel also lowered its official outlook for 2013 revenues by more than $300 million.
The Senate is expected to consider the revised spending bill on Thursday. The Legislature will adjourn June 4 unless the session is extended,
Finance chairman Jack Donahue, R-Mandeville, said the committee’s changes complied with the House rule on the use of one-time revenues.
A House rule allows the use of up to $300 million of one-time revenue for state services, Donahue said.
The revised budget appropriates $60 million of the revenues to one-time expenditures and $277 million for ongoing services.
“We made a conscientious effort to work with the House rule,” Donahue said. “I’m concerned about cutting state government until we have a true handle on what our revenues are.”
Donahue said statements to the committee by commissioner of administration Paul Rainwater and other state officials convinced the senators that the House budget cuts were ill-considered.
“The testimony we received was very compelling,” he said.
The revised budget contains a $71 million reduction for higher education, down from the $225 million cut by the House from Jindal’s proposed budget.
After the vote to restore the spending cuts, the commissioner of higher education, Jim Purcell, thanked the senators.
“What you have here is something that’s certainly painful, but something that we can muddle through,” he said. “I’m not giddy, but I’m definitely optimistic.”
The Senate panel took a swat at Treasurer John Kennedy, who praised the House spending cuts, by reducing the Treasury’s 2013 appropriation by $553,480.
The Senate budget bill also restored $1.8 million for the inspector general, which investigates state and local government corruption. The House plan wiped out the department and assigned those duties to the state police.
The additional revenue available for spending in the Senate proposal includes $50 million from a state self-insurance fund, $22 million from a legal settlement and $11 million expected to be saved by outsourcing some group benefit functions six months earlier than planned.