Gov. Edwards holds press conference reflecting on his first year in office

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - From the historic flood of August to the Alton Sterling shooting and everything in between, the governor's first year proved to be a gut punch for Louisiana.

"None of us knew on that day what the year would bring in 2016," Gov. John Bel Edwards said Wednesday during a speech marking his one-year anniversary of taking office.

"We didn't know that over the course of the year, 56 of 64 parishes would be declared federal disasters," he continued. "We didn't yet know about the tragic shootings that would happen in July."

Despite that, Gov. Edwards expressed optimism for the state's future. He touted what he considered big accomplishments from his first year, including the expansion of Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act.

"More than 370,000 working, poor people have healthcare coverage that didn't have it before," Edwards said.

The new year already is bringing new, yet familiar hurdles, including the state's budget mess. Entering office, Edwards faced a mounting disaster in the form of the state's financial crisis. The state faced a budget shortfall of more than $900 million for the fiscal year ending at the end of June. Meanwhile, the shortfall for fiscal year 2016 - 2017 was close to $2 million.

"In my first year alone, my administration made more than $850 million in painful government spending cuts," Edwards said.

More cuts could be on the way in 2017. On Friday, lawmakers will learn if the state has a mid-year budget shortfall. Estimates suggest the state could be about $300 million in the red.

Edwards told the group Wednesday he does not want to balance the budget on the backs of college students and healthcare recipients. However, he later indicated in an interview those groups may not be shielded from any additional cuts this year.

"If the deficit comes in as large as we think it might, I don't know how any area of the budget escapes further reductions," Edwards said.

The shortfall could also mean yet another emergency special session, though any decision on that has not yet been made. In addition to the budget, the governor said he wants to focus on criminal justice reform in this year's session.

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