BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - A day after clearing up the shortfall in the current year's budget, lawmakers are back to talk next year's budget.
On Thursday, Governor John Bel Edwards submitted his 2018 budget proposal to the Joint Legislative Committee on the Budget (JLCB), which is composed of the members of the House Committee on Appropriations, Senate Committee on Finance, and the Chairman of the House Committee on Ways and Means and Chairman of the Committee on Senate Revenue and Fiscal Affairs.
Edwards' budget plan would be more than $29 billion, which is a growth of $1.4 billion from the previous year. All of growth comes from federal funds, while the state general fund drops $172 million. The plan does not take into fund for inflation or performance adjustments for state employees.
In the governor's 2018 budget proposal, TOPS is not fully funded, but remains at the same level as 2017. The Department of Health will be reduced by $184 million, while all other departments take a 2% hit, including cuts in payments for privatized charity hospitals or services and rural hospitals.
Commissioner of Administration, Jay Dardenne, said to legislators, "This is obviously not the budget we would like to propose to you."
Dardenne said increasing funding for TOPS would be on of the top priorities if more revenue is recognized. He also said there is currently more than $1 billion in deferred maintenance for the LSU system.
TOPS is currently roughly $82 million short in the governor's budget proposal for next year.
Under the governor's new plan, funding merit pay for state employees, which is currently unfunded, would also be a top priority if more money is recognized.
No healthcare waiver slots would be cut under the new proposal, but no new ones will be added either. There will also be no money for deferred maintenance on college campuses and no increased funds for roads, bridges, etc.
Many legislators expressed concern over the governor's new proposal. Republican State Representative John Schroder said "We're setting ourselves up for a rerun," while Democrat Senator Regina Barrow said, "At some point you begin to do less with less."
She also said while the state may continue to provide services, she's wondering if they'll be effective due to cuts.