DALLAS — Debate on Louisiana’s proposed $25 billion budget for fiscal 2012 was halted Wednesday in the House when lawmakers failed to reach consensus on how to balance the spending plan.
Lawmakers rejected proposals by Republican Speaker Jim Tucker and other legislative leaders to cut $81 million from the state Medicaid program, which would have reduced the use of one-time revenues for ongoing expenses.
Earlier this week the House adopted a rule, which was opposed by Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal, to require a two-thirds approval for spending more than $356 million of one-time revenues.
The executive budget proposed by the Jindal contained $449 million of one-time revenues — including the sale of some prisons and revamping the state employee pension plan — to help resolve a $1.6 billion revenue gap.
The House refused to go along with the $81 million of cuts to the Department of Health and Hospital’s $8.1 billion budget, and voted to not suspend the one-time revenue spending limit.
Democratic Rep. Jim Fannin, sponsor of the HB 1 budget plan, deferred further debate on the measure after the House defeated the $81 million cut.
The House had planned to vote on the budget bill this week and send it to the Senate on Monday, but the deferral means the House may not consider the spending bill again until June 1.
The Jindal administration said the $81 million of cuts would result in a loss of $280 million, including federal funds for the state’s Medicaid program.
Fannin said the cuts only would delay Jindal’s managed-care program for Medicaid, set to go into effect later this year, without affecting fees paid to private health care providers under the plan.
“It’s a trick and a game,” Fannin said during the debate. “I don’t want you to think that we’re taking Medicaid dollars that are in the budget to perform the care for our citizens.”
When the cuts were rejected, Fannin asked the House to suspend the one-time money rule and authorize the $449 million sought by Jindal. Legislators rejected that move by a vote of 11 to 88.
Tucker opposed the rule suspension and instead urged the House to accept the spending cuts. He reminded members that 2011 is an election year for state legislators.
“To suspend the rule eliminates any pretense that you can run as a fiscal conservative,” the speaker warned. “This is the vote.”
Meanwhile, the Senate delayed action on a plan by Sen. Rob Marionneaux, D-Grosse Tete, to phase out the state’s income taxes over 10 years. He said the elimination of state tax exemptions would make up for $8 billion a year of lost revenue, but the Senate voted to send SB 259 to the Finance Committee.
Marionneaux blamed the delay on special interests that benefit from the current tax exemptions.
“We don’t have the courage to vote on this bill,” he said. “You know why? Because it would pass.”
Jindal spokesman Kyle Plotkin said the governor would not take the income tax repeal seriously until backers find new revenue to replace what would be lost.