Gov. Bobby Jindal Unveils State Budget, Faces Criticism From Fiscal Hawks
BATON ROUGE, La. (KPEL) — Gov. Bobby Jindal unveiled Friday his $24.7 million dollar budget proposal, a figure nearly $1 billion dollars less than the previous year’s budget, but state lawmakers so far have been mixed on the plan. Some fiscal hawks are accusing the governor of using assumed revenues to plug certain parts of the budget.
The plan makes several assumptions, including the transfer to private management of LSU hospitals, as well as several million dollars in property sales and savings from legislation that has yet to pass through the state legislature.
Jindal didn’t appear to let such critics deter him, though, saying in a prepared media release that his proposal “continues to chart a path that expands economic opportunities for our people and protects education and healthcare funding while reducing government’s footprint.”
There would be no decrease in funding to education and healthcare, two areas of the budget that have seen cuts for several years. Funding for higher education, though, is dependent on $424 million of one-time money based in part on the sales of little- or under-used state properties. The proposal would also grant colleges the ability to raise tuition by as much as $75 million.
Such budget practices were heavily criticized during the unveiling of the proposal to the Joint Legislative Committee on the Budget by Commissioner of Administration Kristy Nichols.
“What if the property sales don’t happen or any of those types of contingencies? Are we going to be faced with another midyear budget cut?” asked House Speak Chuck Kleckley.
Sen. Francis Thompson scoffed at the idea of funding healthcare through the assumed privatization of an LSU hospital in his district in Monroe, worried that healthcare services in that area could be impacted if that assumption failed to become a reality since state funding is stripped from the hospital for most of the year.
Nichols made assurances that nothing in the budget was based on things not expected to happen, but that still did not sit well with Thompson.
“That’s not good enough for me,” he responded. “That’s not the way you plan a budget, in my opinion.”
The budget eliminates more than 10,000 fulltime state employees and promises tens of millions of dollars more worth of savings through reforms of government programs and agencies.
Also absent from the plan is any mention of a restructuring or an elimination of the state’s income tax, something Jindal has been touting for the last month. That, though, is not unusual because the governor is required to present a balanced budget based on current laws and revenues, according to University of Louisiana at Lafayette political science professor Pearson Cross.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.