FEMA drops bombshell on Louisiana Legislature

FEMA drops bombshell on Louisiana Legislature

LOUISIANA (KSLA) - Another financial bomb dropped on the Louisiana Legislature Monday morning, making the budget they're trying to climb out of even bigger.

"More bad news. We learned last night from GOHSEP that we would not be receiving $17 million from FEMA," said Jay Dardenne, Commissioner of Administration.

Governor John Bel Edwards already calls this the biggest financial crisis the state has ever faced, and lawmakers say they already knew this would be a rough road ahead. But Monday morning's news revealed it's about to get even tougher.

When day 2 of the special session dawned, the Appropriations Committee was the first to hear that an already $943 million budget deficit was getting bigger.

"That would be an additional $17 million that we would have to include on that list because the money is not going to be there," explained Dardenne.

The $17 million from FEMA was supposed to be reimbursement for Louisiana's spending during Hurricane Gustav, but it was announced that the money will not arrive this fiscal year. That was a payment that dated back to former governor Bobby Jindal.

"The Jindal Administration had used that anticipated money to try to deal with the first budget deficit of the fiscal year, so that money is not there now, so that adds to our shortfall."

When the Joint Legislative Committee on the budget met, they debated making one of the first cuts, and it was no easy task according to Sen. Gregory Tarver.

"It's not easy. It's very hard. It's very difficult when you're cutting yourself and it's bad but you must do it," explained Sen. Tarver.

But the meeting didn't last long, it only took half an hour.

Then, $38 million were cut to statutory dedications in the General Fund.

Hundreds of special accounts that money automatically flows into, like funding grants for filmmakers or some sports franchises.

Once those are cut, the money will revert into the General Fund and either the recipient of that statuory dedication doesn't get the money or they'll have to find the money somewhere else to fund it.

"The smaller cuts should go to other areas that do not affect the elderly, the poor people, nor education," said Sen. Tarver.

Lawmakers predict this won't be the last cut, but only the coming meetings and sessions will prove that.

"It's not good news for Louisiana. We have a very difficult task ahead of us but we've got to stand and deal with the task, we can't duck the task. We've got a problem," said Sen. Tarver.

Several lawmakers told KSLA News 12 they'd rather see smaller cuts to funds like the statutory dedications than bigger cuts to higher education and health care.

Both the House and Senate convened in separate meeting chambers to continue talks.

Officials say the $960 million deficit needs to be solved by June 30.

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