No cuts to higher education in reworked budget, healthcare still on chopping block

No cuts to higher education in reworked budget, healthcare still on chopping block

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Changes announced Monday to the proposed state budget could mean no cuts next year to higher education, the problem is lawmakers still need to find another $300 million to solve the state's budget issues. If they can't do that, funding for healthcare will come up short.

After the House advanced over $600 million in new tax measures last week, Rep. Jim Fannin said it was like a baseball game. Lawmakers on second, needing a couple more hits to get to home and, figuratively speaking, raise enough money to close the state deficit.

Now, the House Appropriations Chairman is moving this game forward with another big swing.

"Is there any objection to that motion? Any objection? No objection, House Bill 1 will be reported with amendments," said Rep. Fannin, R-Jonesboro.

Amendments passed Monday change the upcoming $24 billion budget to call for no cuts to public colleges and universities. That means, for now, system presidents don't have to consider doomsday scenarios like cutting classes and closing campuses.

Rep. Fannin's revised budget would give higher education $575 million of $650 million in proposed new money, keeping funding the same as last year.

"We're not there yet. We will continue to work through the process," said Rep. Fannin.

Healthcare would get what's left, but it would not be enough to avoid deep cuts. Hospitals would still need another $180 million to fill holes. Without that, it could mean less healthcare money for the elderly and the poor.

"We currently have the second highest infant mortality rate in the country," said Rep. Walt Leger, D-New Orleans.

However, leaders says there's still time. The House Ways and Means Committee is looking at another set of measures to raise millions more, and

their colleagues in the Senate could come up with their own ideas.

Until then, lawmakers hope to bring another $295 million to the House floor when Rep. Fannin's draft is up for debate Thursday, May 21.

Governor Jindal has threatened to veto a budget that raises taxes, but Fanin said that if a veto happens, lawmakers coming back to the Capitol to over ride a veto "would be an option."

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