With the end of the Louisiana Legislative special session, Rep. Gene Reynolds, District 10, says he isn’t completely happy with the package passed to balance the budget.
He says the legislature was successful in raising some money, but it wasn’t quite enough – which means more cuts.
“From the get-go, the other side was only interested in raising about $300 million, and that’s about what we did,” he said. “Some of the measures will not bring in as much money as advertised, and we’re going to have to wait and see how much. For the past eight years, the projections were always higher than what actually came in. I think the important thing right now is the public is starting to see this is no joke.”
With the supplemental bill HB 69, he says he voted against it for three reasons.
“Number one, it cut K-12, which we had given them $44 million outside the MFP, and it’s down to $20 million,” he said. “They lost $24 million. The problem with that is most of this money was in the budget last year, and it was put into salaries and things at the local level. Your local school boards have two choices, they can eat it or they may have to cut salaries or some other measures to save the money.”
The second reason, he says, is an amendment he called “irresponsible.” He says they voted to fund TOPS fully for the fall but cut it back to 40 percent in the spring if there is not enough money.
“I’m for TOPS, don’t get me wrong,” he said. “I think we should fund TOPS, because it’s a good program. In December, the parents and the students are going to have to come up with 60 percent. What they’re going to do is ask colleges to eat that, so that’s an irresponsible, politically-motivated thing that was done strictly just to get the bill out. I don’t like that.”
He says if they are going to fund TOPS, it should be the same amount both in the fall and the spring.
The third reason regards an additional amendment that pushes any extra revenue into three funds: TOPS, K-12 and hospitals. It sounds great, he says, but the issue comes down to the “what-ifs.”
“What if we have a big hurricane that comes up through the middle of Louisiana and we have to spend our money, and any new money that comes in, according to statute, we have to spend the money on those three things before we do anything else,” he said. “You don’t tie your hands with something like that. That was also politically motivated.”
He says he isn’t against the idea of funding those three areas at all, but he wanted to send it to committee to work them out in a more responsible way.
Going forward, he says the governor will begin making cuts, and projected cuts to state parks and recreation include nearly $1.5 million.
“That’s not good for Lake Bistineau,” he said. “Keeping the Lake Bistineau State Park open was pretty much tied to the idea of trying to get more revenue. We had to take what money we had and try to spread it around to all the important issues with TOPS, K-12 and hospitals. Parks and recreation kind of took a back seat. Will Lake Bistineau State Park close? I’m not sure.”
He says he is working to keep it open but isn’t sure how it’s going to play out.
“I think we helped ourselves a little bit so that the cuts aren’t so bad, but there are still cuts and they’re still going to hurt,” he said. “But I think the public is starting to realize this is a serious issue, it’s going to take serious measures going forward to get us back to where we need to be.”
As of press time, Sen. Ryan Gatti, District 36, could not be reached for comment.