Budget balancing proposal advances

An effort to rebalance this year’s $25 billion budget, to fill $75 million in gaps in education and prison programs, began advancing Tuesday in the Louisiana Legislature.

The state House Appropriations Committee agreed without objection to the budget-balancing proposal, House Bill 1094, sending it to the full House for debate with fewer than two weeks remaining in the legislative session.

The bill would direct another $55.7 million to the state’s public school funding formula, $10.6 million to the state’s free college tuition program called TOPS and $8.6 million to local sheriffs for housing state prisoners in their jails in the 2013-14 fiscal year that ends June 30.

To make the numbers balance, the measure would plug the remaining proceeds of a tax amnesty program into the state’s Medicaid program and free up $61 million in state general fund dollars. Those dollars would be combined with other unspent money, including $8 million from Louisiana’s voucher program, to fill the budget holes.