LA Constitution leaves programs vulnerable to budget cuts

(Source: KSLA News 12 Nick Lawton)
(Source: KSLA News 12 Nick Lawton)
Published: Feb. 16, 2016 at 11:23 PM CST|Updated: May. 17, 2018 at 2:43 PM CDT
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SHREVEPORT, LA (KSLA) - Louisiana is facing a $957 million budget shortfall. The governor and legislators are now forced to look at tough cuts and other ways to make up that money.

We took a closer look at what the Louisiana Constitution says can and cannot be cut as lawmakers try to solve Louisiana's Budget Crisis.

There has been a lot of talk about possible cuts to health care and higher education. That is because those are two government programs that are not protected by the state's constitution.

There are some obvious things protected by the constitution, like K-12 education and pensions for state employees. But over the years, Louisiana voters have voted to protect countless initiatives from funding cuts. One example is the Artificial Reef Program which turns obsolete oil platforms into habitats for coastal fish.

So why aren't integral programs in our state, like higher education and health care, protected as well?

This is not the first time the budgets for higher education and health care have been slashed.

"It's the old phrase that the road to hell is paved with good intentions. For example, one of the things that is protected is K-12," said Trey Gibson.

Trey Gibson is the Director of Debate for LSU Shreveport. Those good intentions he is talking about, are things called dedications in the budget.

"It is money that is dedicated to a group. That means you cannot cut this money, but whatever is left over here in this pot you can cut. Higher education and health care still part of the general fund area that is left over and so you can, well, the Governor is almost required to cut those things," said Gibson.

The Department of Health and Hospitals has been asked to look at cutting more than $160 million it gets from the state, and higher education has to slash more than $130 million.

Gibson calls these potential cuts part of a perfect storm, including the dedications and the drop in the price of oil, plus the requirement of a balanced budget.

"We've basically been kind of shoving the problem on and on and on, and you can't shove it anymore. You know, we're $900 million in the hole this year," said Gibson.

LSU Health told us last week their budget would be hit from both the health care and higher education sides.

"I don't want to think about what would happen if a solution is not found," said Mimi Hedgcock, the executive director of governmental affairs for LSU Health Shreveport.

"Are they going to cut some more? We fear that they will," said Gibson.

Gibson says that he hopes the Shreveport community will make a point that LSU-S is "their university,"  and do whatever they can to help protect the school from the potential cuts.

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