Hammett: Much done during session

Published 12:00 am Friday, July 7, 2000

FERRIDAY, La. – Despite not passing a budget for 2000-01 during this year’s regular session, state lawmakers still accomplished some significant things during that session and two special sessions, said Rep. Bryant Hammett.

Lawmakers raised $215 million in new revenue and cut $150 million in expenditures from the budget, Hammett, D-Ferriday, said in a Thursday speech to the Ferriday Rotary Club.

In even-numbered years, the Legislature can only consider fiscal bills during regular sessions, including the state’s budget.

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So failing to pass a budget &uot;was embarrassing, especially since that’s what the session is for,&uot; Hammett said.

But many accomplishments did come out of the session, said Hammett, such as revenue-raising measures that included:

4Raising tobacco taxes to raise $15 million.

4Suspending educational tax credits to raise $18 million.

4Restoring 1 cent to the state sales tax on food and utilities to raise $110 million.

4 Raising the auto rental excise tax to raise $4.4 million.

And the Legislature refused to consider sales tax exemptions that would have cost the state more money.

&uot;This year, we had $500 million worth of exemption requests,&uot; said Hammett, chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee. &uot;Try telling the Sisters of Charity they can’t be exempt.&uot;

In addition, lawmakers increased school funding under the Minimum Foundation Program by $26 million and passed a capital outlay bill that included several projects that would affect Concordia Parish.

And in the second special session held after the regular session, lawmakers passed a state budget, increased hunting and fishing fees and allowed colleges and universities to increase tuition by $250 a year, Hammett said.