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Senate debating budget

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BATON ROUGE, La. (KNOE 8 News/AP) - Senators have started debating a nearly $25 billion budget to finance state government operations and services next year.

The spending plan includes new spending on health care and education programs. Rank-and-file state workers would get a pay raise, but would also face new premium hikes for health insurance.

Many of the across-the-board cuts proposed by the House for contracts, overtime pay and vacant positions were stripped in the Senate budget committee.

More than $70 million in "efficiencies" recommended by a consulting firm hired by Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration would be required to balance the spending plans.

The budget would be balanced with more than $970 million in patchwork financing that isn't expected to reappear a year later.

The new fiscal year begins July 1.

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