Some La. agencies fare better under updated budget proposal

Some La. agencies fare better under updated budget proposal

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Some Louisiana agencies will see less dramatic cuts during the 2016-2017 fiscal year as a result of the revenue raised during the special session.

Before the special session, many departments faced cuts of 63 percent to their state general fund money in the Executive Budget Proposal. After the special session, estimates had that cut at 30 percent.

Some department heads revealed Monday that their share may in fact be less than 10 percent, including the Louisiana Department of Veterans Affairs (LDVA) and the Department of Agriculture and Forestry.

"We're very happy that it's 6.3 percent. It's amazing what that little dot will do," said Col. Joey Strickland, the secretary of veterans affairs, before the House Appropriations subcommittee.

Just a month ago, the LDVA was considering having to let staff go in order to help balance the budget. That could mean reduced services for war veterans.

That is no longer the case, with a 6.3 percent cut as the new request in the Executive Budget proposal, scheduled to be released Tuesday.

"We will be able to absorb that cut and we're very pleased that we'll be able to move forward with continuing the same service for the veterans and their families," said Robin Keller, the press secretary for the LDVA.

In some ways, leaders have begun to wean the LDVA from state general fund money. In fiscal year 2007-2008, the LDVA got $17 million from the state general fund. This year, they only received $4 million.

They have supplemented that reduction with federal funding, which covers the costs of the LDVA's five nursing homes.
The Department of Agriculture and Forestry is also expected to see limited cuts of $2 million as part of the budget fix for next year, according to the department commissioner. This smaller reduction comes on the tail of eight straight years of budget reductions to the department, amounting to a 30 percent cut during that time period.

"We've taken as many budget cuts as anybody else and more than most," said Commissioner Mike Strain.

With the $2 million cut, the department's forestry office will be spared, meaning efforts to fight wildfires will be preserved.

"We need to protect that timber, because ultimately you're looking at a quarter billion dollars in taxes to the state of Louisiana alone that we're protecting," Strain told the subcommittee.

Still, the commissioner warned that even the $2 million cut could mean letting go of a veterinarian and animal health technicians. Those are the people who work to inspect livestock and monitor for disease.

"We are responsible for the health and safety of the citizens, protection of their property, making sure their food doesn't have disease, make sure disease does not reach the human population," Strain said.

The updated executive budget proposal will be released Tuesday morning during a meeting of the House Appropriations Committee.

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