La. House Appropriations Meet To Consider Smaller Shortfall And Budget

Apr 16, 2018

TOPS SPENDING CUTS? La. House Appropriations Committee meets today to consider a smaller than expected budget shortfall and how that might affect programs like the TOPS scholarship program.
Credit Courtesy: TOPS

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)
Credit Courtesy: Advocate News

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.  

Rep. Walt Leger (D-New Orleans)
Credit Courtesy: La. Legislature.gov

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.