Another shortfall in the Louisiana budget may lead to more TOPS or higher education cuts before the state’s fiscal year ends in June.
A spokesperson for Gov. John Bel Edwards said they are trying to avoid making cuts in these areas, but this may be unavoidable as the state has to fill its $304 million gap. The legislature convened in a special session Monday night to try to find a short-term fix to the problem before the regular session begins on April 10.
“The plan that the governor laid out for the special session does not include cuts to higher education, which is something that he is very proud of,” said Richard Carbo, chief spokesman of Edwards, in a meeting with university students Tuesday.
The governor’s plan would involve pulling $119.6 million from the Rainy Day Fund and cuts to hospitals to fix the budget.
But other plans would cut higher education, K-12 education, prisons and hospitals up to $70 million cumulatively. They would also draw from the Rainy Day fund, but would take less.
Although Carbo ensured students, including representatives from The Hawkeye, that the governor is “highly invested in education” and is trying to save higher
education from cuts, his efforts have not always been successful in the past.
After state legislature tried for months at the beginning of the current fiscal year to spare higher education from cuts, colleges and universities still took a $18 million hit last November. The University of Louisiana system’s share of this cut was $5.2 million.
Louisiana is one of only 10 states to see a decrease in higher education funding this fiscal year and has seen some of the highest funding decreases in the nation over the past eight years.
TOPS is currently underfunded as well. For the first time in program history, students did not receive their full TOPS allowance this school year. This spring semester, TOPS students are only being funded at about 40 percent.
Carbo said that the special session is only a precursor to more long-term solutions that will follow in the April 10 session. Then, the strategy will be to do a “complete overhaul” of the tax code and structural budget problems.
Read future issues of The Hawkeye to see how further budget cuts might affect ULM and what local legislators think about the budget crisis.