Education leaders meeting with Edwards over funding
BATON ROUGE - Governor John Bel Edwards and education leaders from around Louisiana met at Governor's Mansion Wednesday to discuss how the ongoing budget crisis will impact colleges and universities.
The meeting comes a day after Edwards proposed tax increases and budget changes to help get Louisiana back in the black. The state currently faces a $750 million midyear budget deficit, and an estimated $1.9 billion deficit in the next fiscal year.
A spokesperson for the governor's office said Edwards will get input from education leaders about the changes he's proposed as well as future steps which could help soften a potentially "devastating" blow from more midyear cuts.
Among the changes Edwards proposed is a one-cent sales tax increase, using the state's Rainy Day Fund, redirecting BP oil spill payments not earmarked for coastal issues to state accounts, cutting 10 percent from discretionary spending and a laundry list of tax adjustments.
Among those meeting with Edwards Wednesday was LSU President F. King Alexander. He said in a press release "significant steps to mitigate cuts" would be taken if lawmakers aren't able to raise money. "We aren’t left with many appealing options, but the numbers don’t lie," said Alexander.
Some lawmakers have painted a more alarming picture of forced higher-ed cuts. "There would be no summer school classes offered at Louisiana colleges this summer, and i think that's a real concern," said Rep. Walt Leger (D-New Orleans). The Democrat spaeking two days after the governor's innaguartion.
Edwards said on Tuesday that without drastic changes to how the state makes money, the state could see universities file for bankruptcy and TOPS scholarships fall away for lack of funding.