First state budget draft likely to include cuts to higher education, health care

Updated: Jan. 19, 2021 at 5:57 PM CST
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BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - Gov. John Bel Edwards’s first spending proposal for the coming budget year will likely slash state services to offset a budget hole worth “hundreds of millions,” Commissioner of Administration Jay Dardenne said.

Lawmakers docked the state’s revenue forecast for the coming fiscal year by $229 million Tuesday after state experts projected the economy will not rebound as quickly as they once hoped.

“No matter what happened today, there were going to be some cuts,” Commissioner of Administration Jay Dardenne said. “We hope the worst is behind us. We don’t know that yet, but there’s some reason for optimism as we look out to end of calendar year 2021 and into 2022.”

Cuts are not guaranteed, and the economy could rebound faster than expected. Lawmakers can also mitigate cuts with federal funding, though it’s not clear how much of the latest congressional coronavirus aid package can be used to plug holes.

It appears the state will finish the current budget year with some surplus, since Louisianans spent more money during the pandemic’s height than expected. Lawmakers could use leftover cash to restore agencies that are expecting a cut in the current budget year, and then shuffle the remaining cash into their budget proposal for the coming year.

Dardenne will present Edwards’ budget on Feb. 26.

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