Budget for state higher than expected

The Revenue Estimating Committee declared that Louisiana’s budget for the current fiscal year is higher than expected. 

The Revenue Estimating Committee is a state panel that determines how much money Louisiana government can spend. The committee’s new midyear budget cuts will total $103.5 million. On Monday, Jan. 26, it was determined that the state budget hole for the next financial cycle has grown to $203.8 million which will bring next year’s projected financial shortfall to roughly $1.6 billion.

Natural gas and oil are Louisiana’s main sources of income and the drop in oil barrel prices is the main reason for the budget hole. 

Another source of income for Louisiana is sales tax and by using the savings at the pump of commerce, this budget hole can be filled somewhat.

“Lower gas prices certainly provide opportunities for consumers in that they have additional available cash due to their savings at the pump,” said Chris Broadwater, District 86 Representative. “Should consumers choose to put that money back into commerce through the purchase of other goods and services, that would be beneficial.”

Though commerce purchases may help the economy issue arising in Louisiana, higher education is feeling the impact.

“Higher education expenditures from the state in Louisiana have certainly been hit hard over the last few years,” said Associate Professor of Economics and Interim Assistant Dean Dr. Jay Johnson.

Talk of some state universities and technical colleges having to close has surfaced, but some are fighting hard to ensure the least amount of harm comes to higher education.

“The message coming from the Governor’s office that they may propose in excess of $300 million dollars in cuts to higher education is what stimulated these comments (college closures),” said Broadwater. “The compounding effect of cuts over the last seven years has certainly hurt all universities, but it has placed some of our institutions in a very precarious financial position and proposed cuts at the level proposed by the Governor would be harmful to all of higher education. While the Governor is proposing such cuts, I’m encouraged that many of my colleagues have joined with me to denounce this plan and pledged to work toward protecting our colleges and universities.”

Broadwater has proposed a bill in the past that would create a Board of Regents and representatives that could create a tax for the operation of colleges and universities but the bill was killed on the first committee hearing.

As of publication date, Southeastern has no word of budget cuts of any kind. 

“There are plenty of rumors and all sorts of speculation swirling around right now, but until the Governor’s Budget is released or we receive official notice, nothing is definite,” said Executive Director of Public and Governmental Affairs Erin Cowser. “As of right now, we have received no such official notice about the WISE program elimination or any amounts of budget cuts.”