budget cuts

Louisiana’s Senate worked Monday, forgoing the holiday barbeque. The Senate Finance Committee did do some grilling however, as Commissioner of Administration Kristy Nichols gave them a rundown of HB 1, as approved by the House.

“They did include $31.1 million for LSU Medical School in Shreveport,” Nichols said of the House “priority list” – a wish list if more revenue is found.

For the first time in months, LSU System President F. King Alexander was able to relax a bit over the weekend.

“I spent it with our daughter, at her soccer tournament Saturday and Sunday.”

Last Thursday, Louisiana’s full House passed some revenue raising bills, alleviating some of Alexander’s worry that no solution to the $1.6 billion budget deficit – and the crippling cuts looming over higher education – would be found. Today, the House Appropriations Committee is expected to add that additional funding into the budget bill, with the bulk going toward higher education.

Alexander says the situation appears brighter than before, but, “We’ve got a long ways to go. We’re not there yet.”

“When in danger or in doubt, run in circles, scream and shout.” The naval adage, quoted in Wouk’s 1951 “The Caine Mutiny” and again in Heinlein’s 1973 “Time Enough for Love”, pretty well describes the current status of both the state budget and legislative action.

The Medicaid Waiver Waiting Game

Apr 20, 2015

Last year, groups advocating for Louisianians with developmental disabilities sought and won an expansion of supports through Medicaid waivers. But when mid-year cuts to the state budget were enacted, those waiver slots were frozen. Rhiannon Traigle is one of many parents asking the legislature to lift the freeze.

The 16 Louisiana state-run museums will be open a lot less – at least until June 30 – due to mid-year budget cuts. At the McNeill Street Pumping Station in Shreveport, this tiny museum operation is to be open to visitors one day a week – at most. Dale Ward has been a diehard volunteer at the waterworks museum since 1999. The cuts came down as the museum hit a record number of visitors last year – 4,800, according to Ward.

Louisiana’s House Appropriations Committee has been asking every agency to present their worst-case scenario when showing up for budget hearings. Wednesday, the committee got the grim prognosis—full force—from higher education.

“Higher education would be reduced by $600-million. That’s an 82-percent reduction from 14-15,” legislative budget analyst Willis Brewer stated.

“You have to remember what you may be losing in the higher education system as you go into deeper cuts,” warns Public Affairs Research Council president Robert Travis Scott.

Scott addressed the Baton Rouge Press Club Monday, focusing on PAR’s new report, “Innovation in Louisiana”, which analyzes state support for university research programs. Those programs bring in grant money up front, and licensing revenue from patents for years afterwards. Scott notes that continued state budget cuts to higher education are impacting the amounts and numbers of research grants Louisiana’s universities are able to access.

At first, it seemed as though everyone was breathing a sigh of relief, as the 2016 executive budget proposal unveiled last week did not slash higher education as deeply as expected.

“The true reduction to higher education is $211.3 million,” Commissioner of Administration Kristy Nichols told the Joint Budget Committee last Friday.

But Nichols went on to admit that number is built on “ifs” and “maybes” that include capping the business inventory tax credit, as well as asking college students to pay what the administration is calling an “excellence fee”.

One component of the Jindal administration’s 2016 budget proposal, revealed Friday, involves holding the line on spending in the public-private hospital partnerships. The private partners in the LSU hospital deals had asked for an additional $142-million in the fiscal year that starts July 1.

“What we funded these hospitals for was level funding, effectively,” Commissioner of Administration Kristy Nichols detailed to the Joint Budget Committee. “And some of the hospitals are projecting growth above level funding. That’s the point of discussion that we are going to have to work through in this process.”

Laine Kaplan-Levenson / WWNO

Governor Jindal announced his proposal Friday afternoon to close a $1.6 billion shortfall for the budget year that begins July 1, 2015. The University of New Orleans was originally expecting a $17 million budget cut. 

Proposed cuts at UNO are now supposed to be around $10 million, less than expected. Still, nobody’s happy about it.