New state budget makes cuts to healthcare and higher education

By Brittany Pieper – email

SHREVEPORT, LA (KSLA) –Monday marked the last day of the Louisiana Legislature's 2010 session.  At the end of the session, and after much debate, lawmakers passed a budget that cuts $25 million from healthcare and $25 million from higher education.

"We spent a lot of time trying to find out the best way to cut down on government spending," said Representative Patrick Williams.

The health care cuts mean people in rural areas may not receive the same level of care.

"We'll be cutting back on Medicaid and Medicare, which is federal dollars, but still you have to have the doctors in place to actually administer those services.  So the smaller hospitals are actually going to feel the cuts more," said Williams.

LSU's Health Sciences center faces cuts from both ends.  If the Governor signs off on the budget as is, they'll lose about $800,000 from their hospital budget.  They'll also lose some money from their education budget.  However, it's fewer cuts than some previous versions of the budget.

"It's a significant amount of money, however it's not as much.  They had previously cut out half of the money of the 135 million, and we would have lost 12.8-million on this campus. It's much better than it could have been," said Elaine King.

Williams, who reluctantly voted for the bill as the session came to a close, says there are more cuts to come, "I think actually we're facing maybe a $2 billion deficit for next year and the following years to come.  So, those are major, major issues that we have."

Williams says to help keep state colleges and universities competitive the legislature also passed a bill that allows them to raise fees 5% this year and up to 10% in the future.  If schools choose to raise fees students will pay more for higher education in Louisiana.

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