State police faces budget cuts, defend presence in NOLA

State police faces budget cuts, defend presence in NOLA

NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - State troopers are visible in the French Quarter every day, helping to augment security as the NOPD struggles to boost its ranks.

On Friday, State Police Commander Col. Mike Edmonson found himself reassuring some state lawmakers that other parts of the state are not being short-changed.

"Are we serving one community at the expense of another?" said Rep. Tony Bacala, R-Prairieville, who sits on the House Appropriations Committee.

"We do not. Nothing north of Baton Rouge goes down to New Orleans," said Edmonson.

The Department of Public Safety Services faces a budget cut of $4 million for the fiscal year that ends June 30, and State Police will take most of the hit at nearly $3 million.

Some other members of the legislative asked whether State Police are prepared to respond to large emergencies statewide.

"I can assure you if an emergency exists in some other part of the state, that becomes our priority. New Orleans does not, " Edmonson said.

A quarter cent was added to the sales tax for the French Quarter to help fund troopers' presence in New Orleans. City Hall said Friday that in addition to those dollars, $1 million in funding comes from the New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau, the Morial Convention Center also contributes $1 million and the city's portion of a hotel assessment brings in $500,000 to support keeping State Police in the city.

House Speaker Pro-Tem Walt Leger said during the House Appropriations Committee meeting that the State Police presence is paying off and it benefits the state's bottom line because of sales tax revenues.

"It certainly appears to be working as the sales tax collections, the visitorship, the revenue being generated for those businesses, and the jobs being created are being protected by your presence," Leger said.

As the state faces a huge deficit for the current fiscal year and one twice its size for the budget year that begins in July, lawmakers are looking for ways to go beyond the funding cuts the governor has made, and others he wants the legislature to sign off on.

Before beginning the special session on Sunday, Gov. John Bel Edwards signed an executive order cutting $21 million. He wants the legislature's help in cutting up to $160 million.

Col. Edmonson said he will deal with the cuts without cutting jobs.

"When I look within the budget, it would have been easy to say let's just lay people off, or let's just take a furlough, I don't like those numbers. Those words, I don't use them in my vocabulary because they're human beings and people and they're doing a job I believe is important," Edmonson said.

Buying new cars for State Police will have to wait.

"I'm hoping these cars can just inch their way to the finish line before we're able to actually just take them out of service. We'll do everything we can to do that," he said.

And despite the budget mess, Edmonson said they remain ready to do their job and do it well.

"Certainly I believe we have what we need to this point, but I think as we look further down the road you've got some diminishing resources that we're going to have to deal with. I understand that," he said.

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