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House rejects Senate changes to budget

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BATON ROUGE - With the clock winding down on the Louisiana legislative session, lawmakers in the state House voted to reject the Senate's changes to the $24 billion budget bill and send it to a conference committee to hash out the final details.

The House and Senate have been at odds over how to close the $1.6 billion budget deficit the state faces next year. Both chambers voted on tax changes to raise money or close that gap, but some lawmakers are concerned with how Governor Bobby Jindal may treat whatever bill is sent to his desk.

Jindal's staff said this week the governor would veto any tax bills which resulted in a net tax increase. After taking office Jindal signed a no-tax pledge from anti-tax advocate Grover Norquist, and is trying to preserve that record before his presumed presidential campaign begings later this month.

Lawmakers in the Senate passed bills intended to allow Jindal to keep that pledge, using some tax credits to make tax increases appear to be offset while still sending money to higher education or health care, which are most vulnerable to cuts. The House rejected those and passed a resolution stating their chamber had enough votes to override any vetoes from the governor.

Conference committee members will have to reach a consensus in enough time to get it through both chambers and to the governor's desk by 6 p.m. Thursday, when they are constitutionally required to end the session with a balanced budget.

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