Lawmakers still face $142 million deficit with two days left in session

Lawmakers still face $142 million deficit with two days left in session

BATON ROUGE, LA (KSLA) - On Monday, Louisiana lawmakers started their last week to fix the budget deficit.

State Treasurer John Kennedy went before the Appropriations Committee, speaking out against what he calls Louisiana's spending problem.

He advised the committee that the state must begin cutting down its thousands of contracted consultants which he said cost the state billions of dollars between May and December of 2015.

"The state has at least 18,710 contracts worth $35.8 billion dollars," Kennedy told the committee.

When the special session began almost three weeks ago, the state deficit was more than $900 million. As of Monday, that was down to $142 million.

But even with that, leaders at LSU Health Sciences Center in Shreveport said they face a two-pronged attack along with University Health Hospital.

"The higher education cuts would come to LSU Health Sciences Center Shreveport directly then the health care cuts would go to our partner hospital," said  LSUHSC Executive Director of Governmental Affairs Mimi Hedgcock. "So if you combined the two, health care and higher education cuts, LSU Health Shreveport at a $50 million potential impact."

Hedgcock said that cut will be shouldered by the doctors and the patients.

"Direct patient care impact. It will impact our future pipeline for health care workers and have an extreme economic impact to the region," she said.

To create revenue, a 22 cent tax increase on cigarettes is heading to Governor John Bel Edwards' desk and an increased tax on alcohol is heading to the Senate floor for approval but some protesters against healthcare cuts told KSLA more needs to be done.

"We're not looking for a handout but we do need a hand up to care for these medically fragile children," said Kodi Wilson with Trach Moms of Louisiana, a group of mothers fighting for medically handicapped children. "One of the places I think we're still deficient in is corporate taxes and removing corporate tax exemptions."

Hedgcock told KSLA she hopes lawmakers will find a solution for the stet budget deficit or she fears local patients could suffer.

"I would challenge you to find someone in Shreveport that has not had health care by a LSU Health Shreveport physician," she said.

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