State budgets more for employment, education

The Department of Administration constituted a state budget that has issued many significant financial changes regarding the life of an average college student. The budget holds $25,519,773,405 for the fiscal year.

“Our top priority must be making sure we have the resources to prepare our students and train them for the jobs of the future,” said Governor Bobby Jindal.

To prevent issues from arising in the future, $29 million will be devoted to Workforce and Innovation for a Stronger Economy, a program designed to promote research and training for graduates with job-ready degrees. The funds are designated for credible state research facilities and state colleges and universities that provide degree programs for high-demand jobs.

While higher education institutions will not be seeing any increases in funding from the state budget, “the difference this year is that we didn’t have any cuts for the first time since 2008, and now we can keep the difference in tuition,” said Executive Director Erin Cowser.

This was made possible by the LA GRAD Act of 2010, which enables colleges and universities to control tuition rates within certain criteria as well as granting them limited operational autonomy with the agreement that the institution will uphold certain standards.

“The money Southeastern gets from tuition will hopefully go to a faculty pay raise. We want to be sure students are getting the best education they can get, and our teachers, who are well qualified, are getting the salary they deserve,” said Cowser.

The budget is still well in favor of promoting postsecondary education. Funding for the Taylor Opportunity Program for Students, commonly known as TOPS, was increased by $32.5 million, totaling at $250 million, to ensure that all eligible students can receive the scholarship.

In contrast, other departments will be facing decreases in funding this year. $444.1 million of the state budget will go to Public Safety Services. The department suffered a $58.4 million decrease in funds largely due to the Deepwater Horizon Event, also known as the BP oil spill, in 2010. 

As stated in the budget, “At this level of funding, the department will continue to perform core missions and activities that are vital to public safety.” 

However, his could result in the cutting back of public safety personnel and the use of technological replacements whenever possible.

The Department of Health and Hospitals will also experience a decline in funds. Florida Parishes will see a net decrease of $855,256 including a $1.6 million decrease of attainable Medicaid. $1.7 million were added to the State General Fund to help compensate for the loss. $490,000 is attended to provide funding to Individual and Family Support Systems.

While these departments must undergo decreases, this year’s budget puts a great deal of emphasis on workforce training and education. 

$239.5 million are to be used for the leveraging of jobseeker services. $26.7 million are provided for Louisiana business to have customized work training available through the Incumbent Worker Training Program. Additional funds will be given to Louisiana Vocational Rehabilitation Services, Helping Individuals Reach Employment and to the Louisiana Employment Assistance Program, all of which are to assist in lowering the current unemployment rate.

For more information on the 2014 Louisiana state budget, go to doa.louisiana.gov.