Vermilion legislators say its about to get ‘ugly’ in Baton Rouge
State Rep. Bob Hensgens
BATON ROUGE - The news is not good when it comes to Louisiana’s budget next year.
Higher education and health care services are bracing for deep cuts next year.
Louisiana’s colleges and universities have been told to brace for at least $300 million in financial reductions during the next fiscal year.
On Monday, Louisiana downgraded its overall revenue forecast because of the recent drop in oil prices. The state will have to make $103 million worth of midyear cuts in the next five months for current state budget to work. Meanwhile, next year’s financial shortfall has grown to $1.6 billion.
Both Vermilion Parish legislators know what is about to happen in April is going to “hurt” and at the same time get, “ugly.”
“I don’t think we can fix a $1.6 billion hole without a lot of hurt and pain,” said Rep. Bob Hensgens. “The frustrating part is we knew it was coming and chose to do nothing. Oil prices have made the problem worse, but the legislature and administration ignoring the facts for seven years is the real problem.
“Now the bill is due, and I am afraid it is going to get ugly,” Hensgens said.
The Department of Health and Hospitals was preparing to absorb a $250 million shortfall in state funding. Now, Gov. Bobby Jindal’s administration is saying the higher education and health care deficits next year could be as much as $50 million to $100 million higher than those original estimates.
These cuts come on top of $180 million in state budget reductions that have already been made over the last two months, also due to falling oil prices.
The governor and Louisiana Legislature will tackle the $1.6 billion hole in the next budget cycle during its April lawmaking session.
Sen. Jonathan Perry of Vermilion is not looking forward to the spring session because of the cuts.
“Unless something changes real soon, this will be the most difficult session we have faced since being in the legislature,” said Sen. Perry.