Senate Finance Chairman Bodi White regrets signing off on a budget that slashed state funding to the Louisiana Department of Health by 100-million dollars. On the final day of the session, budget negotiations went right up until a six o’ clock deadline and White admits he paid too much to the clock and not what was missing from the 45-billion dollar budget plan.
“I signed that conference committee report with two minutes to go before 6:00, I didn’t have much time, I trusted my fellow legislators from the House side and obviously I should not have,” said White.
LDH leaders told state senators the 100 million dollar cut could result in a 740-million dollar reduction in funding when you factor in federal matching dollars. White says if he had to do it again, he would have not have brought the budget bill up for a vote in the waning minutes of the session.
“Hindsight is always 20/20, should have returned the bill to the calendar and returned for a special session,” said White.
LDH officials told the Senate Health and Welfare Committee that the cut will result in a loss of services for Medicaid recipients who need outpatient mental health and substance abuse treatment. There will also be a loss a of funding for some nursing homes, a graduate medical education program, and mobile cancer screenings.
Alexandria Senator Jay Luneau says a mental hospital in his district would also see a cut in funding.
“Aren’t we supposed to be representing our constituents who are the people out there that are going to suffer because of this, what about the people that would lose their jobs, do we not give a damn about them, these are very real issues, which is why this doesn’t make any sense,” said Luneau.
Franklinton Senator Beth Mizell is alarmed to see a cut in funding to Our Lady of Angels Hospital in Bogalusa.
“I just want to do whatever we have to do to not let that happen, because it’s a sin, it’s a sin, to usurp our role and let that happen,” said Mizell.
The Senate Health and Welfare Committee is urging Governor John Bel Edwards to use his line item veto authority to remove the 100-million dollar cut in state funding to LDH. The funding could be replaced by lowering the amount of money used to pay down debt.