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Lawmakers continue to debate budget

Friday, May 11, 2012 - 4:29pm

BATON ROUGE, La (FOX44) — Lawmakers continued debating over next year's budget Friday long into the evening. That's after the majority of the house voted in favor of an amendment that majorly changes the bill.

The initial plan to balance the budget with one-time money may be off the table. The new amendment to the bill makes cuts to some of the state's General Fund in place of dipping into the emergency funds for reoccuring services.

It gives the commissioner of administration the authority to cut costs in a number of areas across the state without hurting critical services. Some of those include reducing funding for vacant jobs, cutting down on state travel costs, and getting rid of some consulting contracts.

Amendment co-author, Rep. Cameron Henry, says this gives up $357 million worth of options within the state's General Fund that can be cut.

"My name's on the amendment!" he said. "If they cut something and it causes a problem, then I do take ownership of it and anyone who votes for this amendment, they have to decide if they want to take ownership as well."

Lots of lawmakers expressed concerns over the amendment. Many said they didnt' like the idea of passing the authority to make cuts off to someone else. Others had questions about how to decide what constitutes as a critical service.

Budget bill author and House Appropriations Chairman, Jim Fannin, spoke out loudly against the amendment, saying he wouldn't be able to discuss the bill moving forward if the amendment passed.

"You oughtta be thinking about what you're doing," Fannin said to the House. "It's fun to play games. I don't think your folks sent you down here to play games, members!"

Despite hours of heated debate, lawmakers did vote in favor of the amendment, 51 to 48. No word on when they'll vote on the budget, but they're hopeful it will be tonight.

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