By a vote of 93-5, the La. House has passed a $24 Billion state budget bill that will now head to the La. Senate, which had the day off on Friday.

"This bill is a responsible budget that is good for the citizens of Louisiana, which means it is good for business, education, healthcare and the lives of our citizens," says Lance Harris, Republican Delegation Chair of the La. House. "We achieved what we set out to do, we balanced revenues with expenses and needs, and we did it with parties, individuals and caucuses working together to compromise. That¹s the way the House is supposed to work."

Before the final vote, several other bills had to be passed, to help the spending plan avoid using one-time moneys for recurring expenditures. One of those suspended a tax rebate program for entrepreneurs--that was set to start next year. Despite Kenner Rep. Julie Stokes' objections, telling members that the move will hurt economic development by "put(ting) the brakes on the economy," Speaker of the House Chuck Kleckley had a much different take.

"This is a responsible budget, balancing cost cutting with increased revenue, and is good for business, education, healthcare and our taxpayers," says Speaker Kleckley.

"We set out to create a responsible budget without including non-recurring money, without relying on hopeful contingencies, without raising taxes and ensuring higher education was properly funded; we did just that," says Harris. "We also set out to create a budget based on every voice and every viewpoint in this room.  We did that as well."

Joel Robideaux KPEL photo
Rep. Jim Fannin

The La. House also passed legislation that would establish a tax amnesty program, which would provide an incentive for a delinquent taxpayer to pay their overdue taxes. Lafayette Representative Joel Robideaux says it will help fill budget holes by generating hundreds of millions of dollars. "The last time we did one, it was maybe $470 million. We would hope that it would be somewhere in the neighborhood of half that."

"This process has been exactly what you want in representative government," says Rep. Jim Fannin, Appropriations Chair. "This budget bill has been created with the input of each member here. We've taken a bill that didn't seem to satisfy anyone, and have worked it until we've created a bill that, though it may not please everyone seems to be satisfactory. That's compromise."

Now it remains to be seen how La. Gov. Bobby Jindal will respond to this, as he has already put forth a bill of his own.