As lawmakers wrap up week two of the fiscal session, their efforts to steer the budget bus keep hitting curbs. Now they’re starting to exhibit some road rage.
In the Senate Education Committee Wednesday, a bill that would uncouple TOPS scholarship amounts from future college tuition hikes — in order to contain the cost to the state — drew opposition from the administration.
“This legislation would negatively impact the program,” Jindal policy advisor Stafford Palmieri stated, “Because we’ve broken our promise to fully pay for their tuition to go to college.”
“You oppose this plan?” Baton Rouge Senator Dan Claitor asked. “Then show us your plan. How do you propose to support higher education?”
Originally published on Tue April 21, 2015 6:16 am
The House Appropriations Committee has advanced a bill that would keep highway dollars committed to road work by limiting how much can be shifted to State Police.
“Throughout this state, the common theme is that the legislators have raided the Transportation Trust Fund for other needs,” said New Iberia Rep. Terry Landry, in explaining reasons for authoring HB 208.
While the Senate Finance Committee began working through the budget Tuesday, the House Appropriations Committee was taking public testimony on it.
“Thank you for coming today for this testimony,” Appropriations chair Jim Fannin said in welcome, noting the weather made it more difficult than usual for many who turned up to add their input to the process. “We are appreciative for that,” he said.
Much of the public testimony went as expected: requests for higher allocations to cover jobs and services.
The budget is the big issue when the legislature convenes next week, and the administration is placing heavy emphasis on GEMS initiatives.
“GEMS” is the acronym for Government Efficiencies Management Support”, which is the title of the efficiency report commissioned last year from the consulting firm of Alvarez and Marsal. Although the report wasn’t delivered till the very end of last year’s session, lawmakers were loudly skeptical of the cost of the contract to provide the report, and the savings promised by Alvarez and Marsal.
Louisiana’s budget problems have many criticizing the tax incentives for the entertainment industry, which cost the state about $250-million last year. A legislative task force has been looking into ways to curb fraud in the film program. They met last week, to discuss the thrust of bills they may file in the upcoming legislative session.
“These are various common-sense measures that we think can be taken to perhaps make it a little bit less easy to steal from these programs,” Louisiana Inspector General Stephen Street said, as he prepared to give the panel suggestions based on his experiences investigating problems with the programs.
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.”
“It’s horrible. It’s as bad as we’ve seen, for sure.”
Barry Erwin, president of the Council for a Better Louisiana, says the budget cuts looming ahead for Louisiana’s public colleges and universities are nothing short of brutal.
“We’re talking about three, four, five hundred million—they’re saying—in one year? That is an insurmountable obstacle for these schools.”
Erwin attended Monday’s meeting between governing board members for all of the state’s higher education systems, and some influential lawmakers. With the governor’s budget proposal due to be unveiled Friday, all are asking the same question: How bad will it be?