Louisiana gives out about $4.4 billion in tax breaks to businesses and individuals each year. A look at the major categories of taxes collected and tax exemptions in the just-ended 2011-12 budget year, according to estimates from the state revenue department:
Repeated rounds of budget shortfalls have prompted lawmakers to take an in-depth look at the long list of tax breaks that siphon billions of dollars from Louisiana's treasury each year.
A 14-member study panel of legislative leaders Monday launches a six-month review of the $4.4 billion in tax exemptions, rebates and credits on the books.
For years, when state coffers were flush, tax break bills sailed through the Louisiana Legislature. But with the economy struggling, Republicans and Democratic state lawmakers are questioning if they've been too generous.
Nicholls State University and the University of Southeastern Louisiana are laying off employees.
Louisiana State University, though, says it will cut its budget without firing employees.
The state's public colleges and universities are absorbing a fifth round of budget cuts since 2008. In the new budget, higher education was cut by $66 million, bringing total cuts since 2008 to $420 million.
Southeastern, in Hammond, says it will lay off 36 faculty and staff members and eliminate 80 vacant positions. The university says it's cutting $13 million overall.
The Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals says four new cases of West Nile virus bring this year's total to 14.
It says the new cases include the year's third nervous system infection — the infection's most dangerous form. That patient is in St. Tammany Parish; earlier neuroinvasive cases were reported in Rapides and Vernon parishes.
The other new cases were in Bossier and East and West Baton Rouge parishes. They include one patient with flu-like West Nile fever and two people without symptoms, found in blood donor screening.
A burial service for a New Orleans music icon known simply as "Uncle Lionel" had to be postponed when a violent thunderstorm flooded the cemetery where he will be laid to rest.
But the foul weather didn't stop hundreds of fans, friends and neighbors from packing a theater for Lionel Batiste's funeral Friday, turning a somber ceremony into a fittingly raucous celebration of his life. The audience at the Mahalia Jackson Theater danced in the aisles and gave standing ovations to musicians paying tribute to Batiste.
The state ethics board has deferred a decision on whether state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education member Kira Orange-Jones can keep her elected seat and her job as executive director of the New Orleans branch of Teach for America.
Alainna Giacone, spokeswoman for the ethics board, said Friday that Orange-Jones' attorney asked for the postponement until the panel's August meeting.