State passes budget ahead of special session deadline

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Louisiana legislators passed a $28 billion-plus Louisiana operating budget Friday after a stalemate in the final week forced a special session.

The spending plan for the fiscal year that begins July 1 will keep most agencies free of cuts and fully fund the TOPS free college tuition program. More than 38,000 state government workers will get a 2 percent pay raise.

This budget marks the first time college campuses will be spared funding cuts in almost a decade.

University of Louisiana System President Jim Henderson praised the plan in an email statement, saying, “With the final passage of House Bill 1, the Universities of Louisiana are encouraged by one of the most successful legislative sessions for higher education in nearly a decade. We appreciate the diligent work of the Louisiana Legislature and Governor John Bel Edwards to prioritize students, employers, and faculty not just in rhetorical support for colleges and universities, but through action. While we still trail our competitors in terms of resources per student, the stability in state funding and the fulfillment of the TOPS promise position our universities to deliver an even greater return on investment. Through this work, we laid a foundation upon which a stronger Louisiana will be built.”

The spending plan will see no tax increases after the House put an end to any tax raising plans during the regular session.

House GOP leaders opposed the budget on the grounds that it spends too much money and believe it will set up the state for another round of midyear cuts.

The state income forecast has failed to accurately predict the dollars for nine years, forcing agencies to make midyear cuts.