The announcement of additional cuts in this fiscal year’s state budget was announced Thursday, and Rep. Gene Reynolds, District 10, says no cuts will be made to higher education.
“Higher ed has been hit time and time again, and at the first of the week, there was some concern that if cuts came down on our vo-tech schools, that our vo-tech would shut down,” he said. “That’s the real issue.”
All of the additional cuts made were in the state’s Department of Health and Hospitals, Reynolds said, adding these cuts do not affect Medicaid recipients. It’s all at the contract level, he said.
“I think this is going to be some of the business arrangements we’ve made, and with Medicaid, we’re looking at some of those issues too,” he said.
He says they are now looking hard at Medicaid to begin efforts to stop fraud. He emphasized this does not affect those who depend on it. He praised Gov. John Bel Edwards for not cutting higher education, and really looking at DHH.
“It’s a huge, cumbersome federal program,” he said. “When you have these huge federal programs, there’s always some stuff that you can cut. We’ve been looking at it for a while now, and I think this was a good deal to go ahead and start looking at it. I believe there will be more cuts to DHH as we go forward. The whole idea is to quit piling this up on the backs of students, their parents and colleges.”
Cuts during the special session in early March included some funding for the TOPS program and other areas across the board. Legislators started the session with a $960 shortfall for this year and were able to make millions in cuts and raise roughly $300 million in revenue. However, the state was still short about $70 million. With the additional cuts comes about $3.2 million from the Shreveport Biomedical Research facility, Reynolds says, and other areas include utilization decreases.
“So, for this year, with the new cuts, a balanced budget is at hand,” he said. “Next year is a different beast with a $750 million shortfall that will have to be addressed with tax reform, budget reform and addressing rebates that are not producing jobs or extra revenue for the state.”
Reynolds believes another special session will be needed.
“We approved a commission to report to us in September on proposals for the reforms,” he said. “This will lead to legislation and constitutional votes on the proposals…I know that some of the decisions did not sit well with different groups; some hated the revenue, others hated the cuts but to do nothing is irresponsible and you did not send us here to stick our heads in the sand and just vote ‘no’ on everything.”
The regular legislative session began March 14 and will end June 6.