LA. BUDGET REVISION- Louisiana’s state law required Gov. John Bel Edwards to submit a balanced budget to the Legislature which he did this past January. At the time the fiscal cliff/ budget shortfall was estimated to be around $1 billion dollars…due to temporary sales taxes expiring in July. Edwards’ proposal removed all of the state’s funding to the TOPS scholarship program - that’s 80 percent of the program’s total budget. But recent news indicates that next year’s revenue is expected to improve by $350 million, partly because of recent Federal Tax reform and rising oil prices.
Rep. Rick Edmonds (R-Baton Rouge) is on the House Appropriations committee which meets today to determine how to spend this new revenue. He told Public Radio WRKF in Baton Rouge there’s plenty of places where the money could go. “Of course we’re interested in TOPS and what happens in higher education. That’s a strong priority in our area. We’ll do our best to try and provide our college students with everything we possibly can,” he said.
And so with revenue projections revealing more money to work with, Gov. Edwards wants to put $50 million back into TOPS. Members of the Appropriations committee can vote to send even more. A boost in the Louisiana budget projection means the 'fiscal cliff' is not quite as steep but the fact remains that a sizeable $650 million shortfall is still there. Speaker pro temp, Walt Leger (D-New Orleans) listed various areas that will be the focus of where funds may be cut.
“Whether you believe that the TOPS program is the highest priority, or you understand that graduate medical education at LSU Shreveport and in LSU New Orleans and our medical schools needs to be funded, or you believe in the hospice program or breast- and cervical-cancer screenings and treatment. The list goes on and on,” he explained.
So if the budget makes it out of committee, it will head to the House floor this week.