SARAH GAMARD/MANSHIP SCHOOL NEWS SERVICE
Louisiana Department of Health Secretary Rebekah Gee (right) and Administration Commissioner Jay Dardenne testify before the House Appropriations Committee Monday.Gee’s department faces $920 million total in cuts — $237 million in state fundings and the rest in federal funds — in the latest budget proposal for next fiscal year that begins in July.
Dr. Rebekah Gee, head of the Louisiana Department of Health
, today said Louisianans will “suffer and die” under the legislature’s proposed cuts to state health programs.
The House Appropriations Committee met Monday to address House Bill 1, the state budget for next fiscal year, as it starts through the enactment process for the second time. The Department of Health faces $237 million in cuts from the state — $920 million if federal funds are included — in the latest version of HB1, a 9 percent decrease to the governor’s plan.
Including federal losses, cuts include $21 million from a development program for children with health complications, $60 million from displaced youth rehabilitation, $2 million from Zika virus infection prevention and $88.7 million from Medicaid-funded mental health services.
Health and hospital funding has been an especially contentious topic in the legislative fiscal discussion, particularly because it is one of the easiest to target.
Outside the committee room, Gee told state Rep. Tony Bacala, R-Prairieville, that her department can handle some cuts but begged him not make it suffer the blow it currently faces under the proposal. She warned that it would affect tens of thousands of families in the state.
Gee told Manship School News Service that the budget as passed by the House is “terrible” for Louisiana and hopes they will get to a better compromise before the budget is approved, no later than Monday.
The House returned Monday from a three-day weekend following a contentious floor debate Thursday that resulted in the failure to pass the operating budget and state construction bills. The Legislature was called into special session within 30 minutes and given the sole task of doing so by Monday.