NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - With Louisiana facing serious budgets problems, lawmakers are becoming extremely concerned.
“It's keeping us up at night," Rep. Austin Badon said. "Some projections have it at $1 billion. Some projections have it at $1.4 billion.”
“We have a substantial amount of reduction of oil and gas income, but we also have about 1 to 1-and-a-half billion dollars of structural deficit that exists in our budget,” Sen. Conrad Appel said.
Appel said the shortfall isn't a surprise to anyone, but the worry now is about where the cuts will be made.
“I think between the Department of Education and higher education, they'll take a substantial hit," Appel said. "To a great extent it's compounded with reductions they've experienced over the last five, six or seven years.”
The magnitude of the cuts being discussed now are larger than ever before.
“The worst case scenario, $300 to $380 million are projected, which is roughly 40 to 50 percent to a lot of universities. We've already cut these universities to where they can't cut anymore,” Badon said.
Now there's talk that some of the public college and university campuses could close.
“There could be a big impact on Southern University, University of Louisiana and the Louisiana LCTCS, which is the Louisiana College of Technical Schools - a total of perhaps as many as 16 institutions,” Appel said.
“I'm not in favor of closing LSU," Badon said. "Everything is on the board, and everything is on the table.”
Both Badon and Appel agree that closing institutions will make for a tough political issue.
“It disenfranchises a lot of legislators and communities, as well as the institutions,” Badon said.
“It's going to be a large political fight because those of us who believe in smaller government also believe in less taxes," Appel said. "But it's also important we understand that there's a bottom to that belief. We have to provide a certain service, and in my world, a high priority is placed on educations services.”
Some lawmakers have already met to discuss the budget problems. Others are expressing an interest in raising revenues.