Louisiana’s budget for the financial year of 2017 has undergone a severe cutback and is now sitting at an awkward $600 million. Jay Dardenne, the Commissioner of Administration said in an official statement during the Senate Finance Committee, that the reduction is due mainly to estimation changes in the number of people who will continue to use the current healthcare system (Medicaid) and the projected savings for a preplanned expansion of the Medicaid. Under the newly proposed expansion, the administration of the Gov. John Bel Edwards, the chief financial adviser says that the state of Louisiana can exploit of better rates of federal financing for health services that the state is currently providing for the unemployed and uninsured.
On Monday, he also told the state senators in the meeting that a gap once pegged at $750 million is lower for the July 1 deadline of the new financial year. People like Sen. Sharon Hewitt, R-Slidell felt uncomfortable with the wide oscillations in the health budget estimates, saying that it blew her mind that the budget could change that quickly. Dardenne said that the figure for the shortfall could continue to oscillate sporadically as the Edwards administration tries to take advantage of other financial resources while still looking for various ways to trim the state spending.
In order to put a lid on the gapping $600 million pitfall, the Democratic governor is proposing belt-tightening across most of its agencies, the college education program called TOPS which is taking a major hit, and to the safety net healthcare services for the state’s more financially disabled. He is also looking forward to a special financial advice session in June to consider more changes in tax that could reduce the brunt of the cuts. Many senators have started questioning Edwards’ proposal to only set aside an estimated one-third of the approximately $300 million needed for all eligible students to cover tuition costs. Dardenne said that an additional minimum of $185 million would ultimately be needed to keep the program; Edwards insisted that other portions of the stipulated budget could be redirected to TOPS as needed.
The remainder of next year’s budget proposal is expected to be unveiled in front of the House Appropriations Committee within the two weeks. Dardennea and some of the administration members remain highly skeptical about some of the budget-balancing ideas they have heard from House members. Senator Conrad Appel, R-Metairie claimed he would have liked the current budget plan more if the governor had presented a long term strategy with it.