Today, Gov. John Bel Edwards issued the following statement regarding the improved forecast from the Revenue Estimating Conference (REC) and proposed that the available funds be used to erase the cut to higher education and reduce the cuts in other areas, such as law enforcement, health care, TOPS, and Go Grants. REC, the committee tasked with determining how much revenue the state can budget for in a fiscal year, increased the forecast for the fiscal year beginning July 1, 2018 by $346 million. The increase is a result of federal tax changes made by Congress in 2017 and improved revenue projections for the state as a result of a number of improved economic factors. With the updated forecast from REC, the total from the fiscal cliff fell to $648 million for the next fiscal year, down from $994 million.
“This is welcome news that we have been expecting for some time, and these additional resources will certainly help to soften the cuts from the fiscal cliff in a number of important areas,” said Gov. Edwards. “However, this does not change the need to replace a portion, not all, of the expiring revenue in order to adequately fund critical priorities around the state. A $648 million state general fund cut to the budget next fiscal year would still mean breaking our state’s promise to parents and students, and would dangerously underfund our law enforcement, health care for seniors, children and citizens with disabilities. By replacing $648 million of the revenue that is expiring, we would be reducing the net tax burden on the people of Louisiana by $400 million and imposing more than $120 million in spending cuts in the next fiscal year. This is both the fiscally responsible thing to do, and the right thing to do to ensure the people of Louisiana don’t lose the services and opportunities they need.”
Gov. Edwards is proposing to use the additional funds from the improved forecast, $346 million, to address cuts in the following areas:
- $25 million to fully restore the cut to higher education in the FY 19 budget
- $50 million towards the TOPS program, which would still leave the program $183 million short of being fully funded
- $10 million for the Go Grant program
- $15 million for the District Attorneys
- $20 million for Sheriffs to house inmates
- $12.25 million for the Office of Juvenile Justice to implement the Raise the Age Act
- $20 million to the Department of Corrections
- $26.04 million fully restore funding for the Louisiana Department of Health’s Substance Abuse Services
- $17.62 million to fully restore the Louisiana Department of Health Mental Health Services
- $1.52 million to fully restore funding for Senior Centers
The remaining funds would be invested in health care programs for the disabled, senior citizens, funding for our partner hospitals in New Orleans and Shreveport, and other state projects
“If we’ve got the opportunity to lessen the impact of the fiscal cliff on the people of Louisiana, we’re going to take it," continued Gov. Edwards. "While this does not solve our problems; it does help. A budget making $648 million in cuts would be one of the most irresponsible approaches for our state, and I would not sign that budget into law. By fully funding higher education institutions, we can continue to attract economic development projects from around the country, but would need additional resources to fully fund the TOPS and Go Grant programs to ensure Louisiana’s best and brightest stay here at home. We also have the ability to give our law enforcement the resources they need, and implement reform programs, such as Raise the Age, that have overwhelmingly passed the legislature, but lacked the funds to execute. While this is a positive step forward, it does not completely solve our problems. I am hopeful that we can continue with our agreement with House and Senate leadership to adjourn this regular session early in order to fund these priorities. The people of Louisiana are expecting us to deliver a bipartisan plan that will allow the positive momentum we are seeking to continue.”
Prior to today’s REC meeting, the conference estimated next fiscal year’s budget shortfall at $994 million. The House Fiscal Office projected that an estimated $1.38 billion in revenue was expiring on June 30, 2018. Gov. Edwards has proposed replacing a portion of the revenue, resulting in a net tax reduction of $400 million on the people of Louisiana. Doing so, would adequately fund state priorities for the next fiscal year, while still imposing a more than $120 million spending cut on the state budget.