State legislators attempt to work through mid year deficit

Lawmakers review deficit reduction proposal

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Legislators spent the better part of their Friday trying to come up with swift solutions to keep the state from drowning in a sea of red ink.

The current budget is short by $103.5 million. The projected budget for next year is $1.6 billion.

The governor's office ordered reducing money to state agencies. The Joint Budget committee tried to avoid those cuts, but they couldn't.

Governor Bobby Jindal's Commissioner of Administration, Kristy Nichols, went before the committee with a plan to cut nearly $61 million from state agencies and take in another $43 million in revenues to help legislators balance a mid-year budget deficit.

"This is the time to make reductions to generate savings," Nichols said.

The proposal included cuts to state parks and recreation, healthcare, transportation, and agriculture to name a few.

Representative John Schroder was concerned the cuts were not deep enough.

"I don't know if a $60 million whack at it, doesn't seem like a big enough whack to me," Rep. Schroder said.

But it was more than enough to get his colleagues fired up.

Representative Patricia Smith suggested that the governor make bigger sacrifices.

"This is absolutely atrocious. The governor should lead by example, reduce his own salary, do not take a salary for six months and reduce the rest of it," Rep. Smith said.

Lawmakers spent more than an hour sounding off about a section of the proposal that would shift $6 million from road work to state police operations.

Senator Robert Adley threatened to skip a committee meeting to make sure his vote was counted.

"If the chairman across the hall in my next meeting will agree to recess, I will be here just to vote no," Sen. Adley said.

The committee agreed to discuss the issue later. However, it did approve most of the administration's proposed solutions including a $2 million cut to agriculture.

Commissioner Mike Strain warned the move will impact the economy and public safety.

"I can tell you we are going to have layoffs. We are closing our nurseries. We will have a reduction in force. We will not fill needed positions," Strain said.

Lawmakers approved most of the plan but some made sure of noting it is only a short term solution to a much bigger problem.

"I don't believe that's a long term solution to the state of Louisiana, to go in there take money from an agency and give to higher education because then we have to figure out what are we going to do next year," Sen. Jack Donahue said.

Lawmakers have 30 days to resolve the mid-year deficit, or come up with another plan.

An executive budget meeting is set for next Friday.

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