Lawmakers pass budget, car insurance bill as session ends

Lawmakers pass budget, car insurance bill as session ends
(Source: WAFB)

BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - Most state services will continue under the budget lawmakers sent to Gov. John Bel Edwards’ desk before lawmakers ended the special legislative session Tuesday evening.

TOPS and K-12 are fully funded, though colleges and the department of health will take relatively small cuts. Federal coronavirus aid helped to plug nearly all of the $900 million hole the pandemic’s recession blew in the state budget.

“It’s a reasonable budget. It’s workable,” Gov. John Bel Edwards said. “It’s not ideal and it’s not what we wanted at the outset of the regular session, but, yeah, there was a lot of good work that was done.”

Some state workers will not receive pay raises on schedule, however. Lawmakers agreed to set aside that money until the fall, in case the economic outlook worsens.

“Nobody knows what it’s going to be like in October, November, December,” Senate finance chair Bodi White, R-Central, said. “We’re hoping it’s going to be great, but we don’t know so we held back dollars.”

Although the money was available, lawmakers expressed concern about bad “optics” if they gave state workers a raise while hundreds of thousands look for a job.

“It’s regrettable the legislature didn’t see fit to provide them with a modest raise this year that the law says they were entitled to, especially since the funding is available,” Edwards said.

That was the major sticking point in the budget, largely overshadowed by a compromise on a plan that aims to lower car insurance rates.

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The bill would make it harder to sue after an accident, primarily by putting more cases in front of juries. Read more about the bill here.

Lawmakers expect to return to the capitol for another special session in the fall to reassess the state’s economy and shuffle money as necessary.

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