Shared from the 2018-06-13 American Press eEdition

OUR VIEW

Potential budget cuts severe, widespread

Anumber of state budget areas are slated for major reductions for the new fiscal year starting July 1 because the spending plan approved by both the House and Senate protects most health care services. That is where billions of state and federal dollars are spent.

The Legislature at the third special session this year will try to avoid those budget cuts by increasing part of a temporary 1 percent state sales tax going off the books June 30. That would leave the remaining state sales tax at 4 percent.

The House Republican leadership wanted a one-third percent increase, which would make the new state sales tax 4.33 percent. Senators proposed a 4.5 percent tax, and the disagreement led to the second failed special session this year.

Without additional funds, TOPS scholarships would be funded at only 70 percent, a nearly $30 million reduction. A $97 million reduction for higher education budgets is a separate item.

The state Department of Corrections would see its funding reduced by $38 million. Local sheriffs who house some state prisoners would receive $43 million less from the state. Both reductions would lead to the early release of 10,000 prisoners over the next year.

The reduction to the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (food stamps) that serves 19 percent of the state population could end the program.

Local district attorneys would lose $25 million in state support and private and parochial schools $14 million for lunchroom personnel and testing costs. A 24 percent reduction to the state Department of Education would cause the first-ever reduction to early childhood education.

Legislators have been able in the past to make other reductions protect areas like TOPS and higher education. However, the budget that was approved requires that any additional revenue be distributed on a pro-rata basis.

House GOP leaders have accused the administration of Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards of using scare tactics to drum up support for higher taxes.

Those who administer these programs insist the consequences are real.

The only logical solution is for the House and Senate to agree to some kind of tax increase compromise in order to avoid the severity of these potential budget reductions.

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