Jindal proposes budget, legislators weigh in
POSTED: Friday, January 24, 2014 - 6:30pm
UPDATED: Friday, January 24, 2014 - 6:34pm
BATON ROUGE, LA (NBC33) — The sleet and snow didn't stop the Governor's team from unveiling their budget on Friday.
For the first time in years, some of the hardest hit programs are getting cash instead of cuts.
For the first time in a long time, lawmakers are excited with the way the Governor's 25 billion dollar proposed budget looks.
"Since 2008, the state general fund has dropped almost 20 percent for the first time over the last six years. It looks like we see a light at the end of the tunnel," said Chuck Klekley, a Republican Representative from Lake Charles.
Baton Rouge Senator Dan Claitor also shared his thoughts: "It looks like we're doing a little bit better revenue wise. I personally feel the economy has turned, when you drive around the state and you see all the construction."
Still, others are waiting to pass judgment.
"I am very cautiously optimistic when I look at the budget, because you know this is where rubber hits the road when we look at what's being funded," said Democratic Representative Patricia Smith.
The proposed budget will increase funding for education on all levels. Even universities will get a six percent increase—thanks in large part to tuition hikes.
"Higher ED funding, we increased that funding by $141 million. We have $60 million in this budget for state employees. And there's just a wide variety and a number of things we're finally doing."
But plenty of lawmakers are still questioning how the Governor plans to fund the state's voucher program in the long run.
"You know, how do you sustain a program like that? How do you make sure you're going to have monies available? And the only way to do that is you've got to rob Peter to pay Paul," said one legislator.
With hundreds of pages of budget to look through, Louisiana legislators know this is only the beginning of a long road.
" There's a lot for us to sort through, a lot of issues about those with disabilities, higher ED, raises, and so I am very interested in that and that's good, but I just want to make sure that we can afford it, and it's not just something that's put in there with a hope and a prayer."
Lawmakers have until the session’s end to hammer out and pass a final budget.
The 2014 session starts on March 10th.