Democrats highlight Louisiana's budget problems in response to Jindal's remarks

Wrap-up of the first day of the 2015 Legislative Session

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - The House Democratic Caucus responded to the Governor's opening session remarks, saying Jindal damaged Louisiana while putting his own political interests first.

The chair of the Democratic Caucus, John Bel Edwards, thanked the governor for showing up Monday. The House Democrats say they were worried with the bad weather, Jindal wouldn't make it back for the start of session.

This group says their goal is fixing the way Jindal has mismanaged the state.

While Jindal has blamed the state's economic problems on the price of oil, House Democrats say the governor's hand is also responsible for the damage.

Representative Ted James says Louisiana cannot have a strong economy without strong universities.

"We rank dead last in the amount of funding allocated to higher education," said James, D-Baton Rouge. "We're at negative 34 percent. More than any other state in the country."

Lawmakers with the Democratic Caucus say, right now, Louisiana has the third highest unemployment rate. Job growth is slow, yet tuition continues to tax the hopes and dreams of college hopefuls.

"We are not going to support any resolution of the budget that increases tuition on our kids yet again by double digit annual tuition increase, which would double tuition since Bobby Jindal's been governor," said Edwards, D-Amite.

Some democrats say Jindal has mismanaged the budget for seven years.

"The forecast, as we stand here today, is for another five years of shortfalls ranging between one billion and two billion each year," said Edwards.

Edwards, says this session, they will be looking at the state's tax giveaways to business for ways to create savings and put that money toward higher ed and health care.

"I don't see a budget passing this legislature without Medicaid expansion on the table," said James.

James says the governor's privatization of public hospitals is failing. He points to the recent closure of the Baton Rouge Mid-City emergency room as one example of a lack of resources.

He says the governor has ignored the needs of over 200,000 people who would benefit from the health care expansion in order to focus on his presidential ambitions.

And just like Jindal, they intend for their voices to be heard this session.

The group says a lot of the bills filed require 70 votes, and it won't happen without the Democrats.

The Democratic Caucus says, even if they did do everything the governor wants, there is still a 200 million cut coming to higher education at minimum that could affect courses offered and in one case, if the school can even operate.

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