Edwards unveils plan to bridge $304 million budget gap
BATON ROUGE - Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards unveiled his plan to bridge a $304 million budget gap for the upcoming special session Monday.
Edwards revealed plans to take advantage of the state's $119.6 million Rainy Day Fund to stabalize the budget. The governor's plan does not include raising additional taxes or fees.
The highlights of Gov. Edwards’ plan include (* indicates items that can only be addressed by the full legislature during a special session):
- Use of the Budget Stablization Fund - $119.6 million*
- 2.5 percent reduction of state general fund to the judiciary - $3.79 million*
- 2.5 percent reduction of state general fund to the legislature - $1.65 million*
- Excess funds from the Louisiana Legislative Auditor to construct a new office building - $8 million (This reduction does not impact the operations of the agency)*
- Attorney General’s escrow account balance - $3.98 million
- 5 percent reduction in statutory dedications from the Attorney General - $1.9 million
- Reduction in statutory dedications from the Department of Transportation and Development - $1.46 million
- The Louisiana Department of Health - $127.8 million in reductions and adjustments
Edwards’ plan includes cuts across a broad spectrum of the state budget, which requires a vote of the full legislature. As promised, the governor’s plan does not include cuts to K-12 education, higher education, TOPS, waiver programs, the Department of Corrections or the Department of Children and Family Services.
Last week, Edwards officially called for a special session to be held next Monday. The move marks the third time Edwards has called for a special session since taking the helm of the financially strapped state in 2016.
The session starts Feb. 13 and will run until midnight Feb. 22.
With half of the fiscal year already passed, cuts are expected to be harsh and some state services may be reduced.
Lawmakers have indicated that the fight in the special session will be over whether to tap into the 'rainy day fund.'
“If we can agree to work together during this time, I am confident we can adjourn this special session ahead of the deadline,” Edwards said.