Jindal cuts spare higher ed, but cut coastal dollars

Jindal cuts spare higher ed, but cut coastal dollars

BATON ROUGE, LA (WVUE) - State lawmakers made clear they were not happy about it, but they signed off on Gov. Bobby Jindal's plan to close a $487 million budget deficit.

While public colleges and universities are spared cuts, environmentalists were livid about what they called a $6.5 million "raid" on the state's Coastal Fund.

House members on the Joint Budget Committee voted 19-6 for the Jindal plan, while senators backed it 14-1.

Both candidates in Saturday's gubernatorial race, Democrat John Bel Edwards and Republican David Vitter, had urged lawmakers to reject the administration plan. Had they voted "no," lawmakers worried Jindal might balance the books with another round of cuts to higher education.

While the mid-year cuts include $6.5 million from the Coastal Fund, Jindal aides argued that effectively amounted to excess money the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority is not authorized to spend in the current fiscal year.

"The governor has been very dedicated to coastal protection and we continue to be so," said Commissioner of Administration Stafford Palmieri, Jindal's top budget aide.

The Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority said the money could still be spent on projects in future years, but environmental groups believe it sets a bad precedent to use coastal restoration dollars to balance Louisiana's frequent budget crises.

"I think it is a bad signal," said Steve Cochran, Associate Vice-President for Coastal Protection for the Environmental Defense Fund.

Louisiana's next governor could have much to say about whether the cuts last through the entire fiscal year ending in June.

"I don't think it's a Louisiana signal and Jindal is only in office for a few more weeks," Cochran said.

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