BATON ROUGE — Gov. John Bel Edwards on Tuesday proposed closing a $750 million budget shortfall with cuts to the TOPS free college tuition program, safety net hospitals for the poor, colleges, and public schools.

The Democratic governor personally unveiled his recommendations to the House
Appropriations Committee with the opening statement: “I wish I had better news. I don’t. But we’re going to live in the real world.”

His proposal for the 2016-17 fiscal year that begins July 1 would provide a little more than one-third of the nearly $300 million financing needed to fully fund TOPS.

The spending plan would only pay



  1. Imagine the health and economic impact if Louisiana legislators simply raised the cigarette tax (of the least healthy state in the nation) to the national average ($1.61). They could have spared higher education and TOPS. Instead, the tiny 22-cent increase gives Louisiana the 33rd highest (or lowest) tax on a pack of smokes in the country (up from #36). Annual costs associated with cigarette smoke in the state are in the $BILLIONS. Here’s some food for thought for the next special session:

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