Experts expect cuts to state agencies before higher education
BATON ROUGE - Cuts for higher education and health care could roll out in three weeks. Governor Jindal's administration has vowed to close the latest budget hole before leaving office in early January.
Jindal's plan to plug last year's budget deficit and the mid-year budget deficit will be presented to legislators November 20th. The combined total is expected to be at least $217 million dollars.
Leaders in higher education and health care aren't speculating on the depth of the cuts, but Robert Travis Scott with the Public Affairs Research Council says other cuts come first.
"They're going to look at state agency hiring freezes and they're going to look at state agency cuts," said Scott.
The current deficit was caused when officials overestimated to amount of revenue the state would receive. According to Scott, this kind of deficit could allow the state to tap into its "rainy day" fund estimated to contain $500 million.
Health care and specifically Medicaid has more budget protections than higher education according to Jan Moller with the Louisiana Budget Project.
"There are fees for hospitals that you can't cut and nursing homes are protected," said Moller. "It's very hard to cut the health care budget, and if you do cut part of it, it often increases spending in another part," he added.
Moller said the Jindal administration is "out of tricks" and it will be up to the next administration to choose between cutting state services or raising revenue to fund them.
According to Moller, there have been mid-year budget cuts every year except once since Jindal took office. Many experts point out Jindal's administration has had to cope with a national recession.