Dardenne: Gravity of budget cuts for 2017 has been reduced

Dardenne: Gravity of budget cuts for 2017 has been reduced

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - An update to the Executive Budget for the next fiscal year will feature smaller cuts to state agencies, according to Commissioner of Administration Jay Dardenne.

"The gravity of the cuts has been substantially reduced," Dardenne told the House Appropriations Committee Monday. He explained that while the cuts would still be "painful," they would no longer threaten to shut down state agencies.

Back in February, the administration released a worst-case budget proposal for fiscal year 2016-2017. Many agencies faced a 63 percent cut if lawmakers did nothing during the special session to address the original $2 billion shortfall. The agencies included the Department of Children and Family Services, Juvenile Justice, the Department of Environmental Quality, and the Department of Education

With that shortfall reduced down to $750 million, those agencies would now likely see cuts closer to 30 percent.

Meanwhile, agencies originally facing 24 percent cuts, like higher education and the Department of Health and Hospitals, would see a 10 to 12 percent cut during 2017.

The exact cuts to each agency have, so far, not been determined. Dardenne has met with various agencies about potential cuts and will continue to do so in coming days.

"We're not locked into a specific percentage. We're not doing everybody completely equally," Dardenne said.

Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle expressed concern about the remaining potential cuts, especially given that cuts have occurred annually for almost the past decade. However, they also reflected mixed feelings from voters.

"Where I'm from, the message is clear. Live within your means. We've got to find a way to do that," said Rep. John Schroder, R-Covington.

"It's hard to imagine that you can do this with cuts alone. I think the average Louisianian believes it takes cuts and revenue to fix this problem, and I hope the legislature will realize that," said Rep. Walt Leger, D-New Orleans.

These cuts could be reversed or reduced if lawmakers manage to increase revenue further. During even-numbered years, lawmakers cannot raise revenue during a regular session, meaning that another special session would have to be scheduled.

The governor's budget proposal for 2017 is scheduled to be released during the first week of April, according to Dardenne.

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