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Lawmakers discuss possible budget shortfall

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BATON ROUGE - A projected $39 million shortfall in the state's public-to-private hospital deal dominated discussion at the Joint Legislative Committee on the Budget meeting Friday.

Earlier this week the non-partisan Legislative Fiscal Office projected a budget shortfall for the current fiscal year, saying Gov. Bobby Jindal's plan to privatize the state's charity hospitals would fall almost $40 million short of the amount they thought it would bring in.

The Jindal administration disputed those claims. Today, the LFO confirmed to News 2 the state is supposed to receive extra lease payments this year from private partners in New Orleans and Shreveport. The analysts said if these payments are received, it will close the budget gap and actually provide a $6 million surplus.

The LFO said information about the extra lease payments wasn't available to them when they made their initial assessment.

"There was a discrepancy between the Division and the LFO in terms of payments," said Kathy Nichols, commissioner of the Division of Administration. "That discrepancy has been rectified. We budgeted $140 million in lease payments. That's revenue that private parties pay to state for use of facilities."

The LFO did warn that if the extra lease payments are not continued for upcoming fiscal years, there could be other budget shortfalls.

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