State lawmakers reach budget deal

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By the close of business Wednesday, the Louisiana Legislature closed a $304 million mid-year deficit.

Rep. Gene Reynolds, District 10, said the end result is to use $99 million of the rainy day fund with about $11 million in attrition money and cuts across the board.

Reynolds

“Considering what we went through and what we had to do to bring together a coalition, I was pleased, I think the governor was pleased,” he said. “With the cuts, the concern is the attrition money that may be there, may not be there. Overall, it went OK.”

If the state falls short because of the lack of the attrition money, Reynolds said more cuts would have to be made.

Legislators have agreed to make $80 million to $90 million in cuts across the board. It spares higher education, K-12 education, public safety and law enforcement from deeper cuts, Gov. John Bel Edwards said, and minimizes cuts to health and hospitals.

The final plan also includes $2 million from the Legislative Auditor’s escrow account and less than 1 percent reduction to the state’s public-private partnership hospitals.

“No plan was going to be perfect, and unfortunately, we were forced to choose between the best of several bad options,” Edwards said. “However, this final plan is a responsible, bipartisan solution that makes the spending cuts and budget adjustments we need while still preserving critical programs the people of Louisiana rely upon. I appreciate the hard work of many of the members of the legislature who were willing to work together to solve this problem.”
The cuts will be painful, Reynolds said, but not catastrophic.

“It’s not going to hurt as bad as it would have,” he said. “The governor had a plan where it would hurt but it wouldn’t completely just shut things down.”

These cuts will go into effect immediately upon the governor’s signature.

Reynolds is looking toward the regular session in April and is seeing things at work that might lend a helping hand when discussing tax reform and budget restructure.

“The biggest thing I thought about is maybe a coalition of Democrats and Republicans that can work together enough to get some budget reform and tax reform to get some things done that need to be done in this state,” he said. “I’m cautiously optimistic.”

In the next couple of weeks, legislators will get the governor’s proposed budget and talks will begin regarding tax reform and budget structure. Reynolds hopes this will lead to true reform to put a stop to mid-year cuts. The idea is to come up with a plan that puts the state on a path of using recurring money instead of one-time money, he said.

“We’re at that edge to where we can get the budget cycle, revenue and spending in line, which is the goal of both parties,” he said.

The legislature will go into regular session for a fiscal session in April and it will end in June.

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