Gov. Edwards' administration works to convince lawmakers it's serious about cuts
BATON ROUGE, LA (WVUE) - The morning after Governor John Bel Edwards addressed state lawmakers on the opening day of the special legislative session, top members of his administration faced lawmakers who are not sold on the governor's plans to make state government leaner.
"Is there a stomach to go more?" asked State Rep. John Schroder, R-Covington.
Commissioner of Administration Jay Dardenne went before the House Appropriations Committee to answer questions about the governor cutting state spending on his own over the weekend.
Sunday before he arrived in the house chambers to deliver his special session address, the governor signed an executive order. Dardenne said that order cut over $21 million in state spending for the current fiscal year and that the governor recommends the legislature approve other reductions for a total of $160 million in spending cuts.
The deficit for the current fiscal year is $943 million and $2 billion for the budget year that begins July 1.
Some republicans are thirsty for more areas to cut.
"There probably are some others and there are some things that they just didn't have the appetite to do," said Rep. Schroder.
"There's no disputing that the funds aren't there. A lot of frustration and a lot of uncertainty particularly for members of this committee and there are a number of them who are brand new and are just hearing this for the first time," said Dardenne.
The governor also proposes some tax hikes including upping the state sales tax by one cent.
Hanging in the balance is higher education.
"It's still a $42-million cut on higher education even if all the revenue measures passed and we haven't even gotten to the discussion about will all those revenue measures pass," said Dardenne.
Among the areas to see dollars shaved off as part of the governor's overall proposals are the La. Public Defender Board to the tune of $472,000 at a time when the public defenders in New Orleans maintain that they are chronically under-funded.
The Edwards administration also asked the Louisiana Stadium and Exposition District, which oversees the Superdome, to take a cut for this budget year of $2.5 million, something the entity is not quarreling with.
"It won't affect the operation, the fans won't see any less staffers, or any less security guards. We're going to be able to maintain the facility at the same standard as we have been," said Evan Holmes, of SMG which manages the Mercedes-Benz Superdome and the adjacent Smoothie King Center.
That prompted some lawmakers to call on the Stadium and Exposition District to weather more funding cuts.
During the House Appropriations Committee meeting some state lawmakers made it clear that they don't believe that the state is spending a lot of its dollars wisely.
"We're trying to identify things that are non-essential and if they're not essential maybe we just need to do without them, " said another lawmaker.
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