Gov. Edwards' Budget Cut Proposal To Be Unveiled Tuesday

BATON ROUGE (AP) — Gov. John Bel Edwards said Thursday that the budget cut proposals his administration will unveil next week to cope with a $750 million gap will be "very sobering."

         The governor's chief financial adviser, Commissioner of Administration Jay Dardenne, will present the recommendations Tuesday for closing next year's shortfall to the House Appropriations Committee.

         Edwards said the package of proposals won't resemble anything he wants to do but will match Louisiana's spending in the financial year that begins July 1 to its available revenue.

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         "Make no mistake: The budget presentation on Tuesday is going to be very sobering. It is going to be very tough," the Democratic governor said. "It's going to be impossible to fashion a budget that adequately funds what the overwhelming majority of people in Louisiana believe to be critical priorities."

         Lawmakers agreed in a special legislative session to raise $1.2 billion in taxes for next year's budget. That wasn't enough to close all the budget gaps. Taxes can't be raised in the current regular session that ends June 6.

         Edwards said he'll seek a second special session to try to raise additional revenue after the regular session ends. But no date has been set, and it's unclear whether the governor will get support for additional tax hikes to stave off cuts. He said he'll set the date "as soon as I'm convinced that the conditions have been set for success."

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         That means, for now, lawmakers will have to craft a budget for next year using other ways to close the gap, primarily expected to involve cuts.

         Public colleges, health care for the poor and disabled, the state's TOPS free college tuition program, public safety programs and social services are among the many government operations expected to be on the chopping block.

         – by AP Reporter Melinda Deslatte

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