- Associated Press - Thursday, January 19, 2017

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) - The Latest on the state’s budget deficit and negotiations (all times local):

4:25 p.m.

The health department says cuts proposed by the leader of Louisiana’s House Republicans could devastate programs for the poor and uninsured, the mentally ill and people with disabilities.

Rep. Lance Harris offered his plan Thursday for closing Louisiana’s $304 million budget deficit, which would levy $147 million in cuts on the Department of Health.

Health Department spokesman Bob Johannessen said the cuts would multiply with the loss of federal matching dollars to $423 million.

With that reduction, Johannessen says the agency would have to stop paying the privatized LSU hospitals and clinics that care for the poor. He says dollars would be slashed for programs that help the elderly and disabled stay out of nursing homes.

Harris says the cuts could be spread among salaries, supplies, travel and other costs.

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3:40 p.m.

A spokesman for Gov. John Bel Edwards’ says a budget-rebalancing proposal released by the House Republicans’ leader offers “vague recommendations” the administration will review.

Rep. Lance Harris released a spreadsheet Thursday recommending how to make $304 million in cuts without calling lawmakers into a special session. The cuts could be made by the Democratic governor and the Legislature’s joint budget committee.

Harris‘ proposal would levy $147 million of the cut on the state health department. Public colleges would be shielded, but reductions would fall on state prisons, K-12 education, roadwork and more.

Harris doesn’t get into detailed explanations of how the cuts would fall on each agency, and Edwards spokesman Richard Carbo suggested the spreadsheet needed more detail on how the cuts would impact state services.

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12:40 p.m.

The leader of Louisiana’s House Republican delegation is offering his proposal for closing a $304 million midyear deficit without needing a special legislative session.

Alexandria Rep. Lance Harris‘ plan would levy the deepest reduction, $147 million, on the health department. Harris cites the agency’s significant budget growth over 14 years.

Public colleges wouldn’t take a hit, and the state wouldn’t use its “rainy day” fund under the plan Harris provided Thursday to The Associated Press.

Other cuts would fall on roadwork, state prisons and K-12 education.

The governor and the Legislature’s joint budget committee could do the rebalancing without a special session.

Gov. John Bel Edwards is planning to call a mid-February session, saying the full Legislature has broader authority to make cuts without heavily damaging colleges and health programs.

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