Edwards' $315M Deficit-Closing Plan To Be Unveiled Friday

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Gov. John Bel Edwards' chief budget adviser will unveil the administration's proposal for closing a $315 million deficit to lawmakers on Friday, a gap that threatens to force new cuts across state agencies and public colleges.

         Commissioner of Administration Jay Dardenne will outline the recommendations to the joint House and Senate budget committee, seeking to close a budget hole left from the fiscal year that ended June 30.

         It wasn't clear if the proposal would rely solely on cuts to close the gap or if the Edwards administration has found any pots of money to offset some of the deficit.

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         "The commissioner is not revealing any specifics of his plan prior to the Friday meeting," Dardenne spokesman Cody Wells said Monday.

         Agencies and colleges have been asked to draw up scenarios for coping with cuts of 7 percent to 10 percent in the state general fund revenue they get. That's money from general tax collections — not their fines, fees and other dedicated financing sources.

         The Edwards administration has been sifting through those scenarios. Dardenne told lawmakers at their last joint budget committee hearing that he doesn't expect the governor will support an across-the-board reduction and will want to be "more selective" in divvying up cuts.

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         The $315 million deficit from last year stems largely from worse-than-expected personal income and business tax collections, driven by declines in private-sector employment, particularly in the oil and gas industry.

         Louisiana's unemployment rate is 6.4 percent, third-worst among states.

         The Edwards administration has warned that Louisiana's income projections in the current year also could be too high, worsening the financial gap. But the administration wants to wait to see more tax collection data before revising the state's income forecast for this year, because Louisiana gave out extensions for tax payments after the mid-August flooding.

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         "We don't have enough definition around the current midyear (gap), but we do know that revenue is not coming in the way that it was forecasted," Edwards said Monday. "We believe that there will be a shortfall in the current fiscal year as well that will have to be addressed."

         – by AP Reporter Melinda Deslatte



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