Wednesday, 02 March 2016 10:42

Louisiana horror story: Prison closures, environment at risk , hospitals in chaos

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horrorJust how bleak is the Louisiana revenues and expenditure situation for the balance of this fiscal year moving onto FY 17 starting July 1, 2017?

Parks and museums will close.  Prisons will shutter.  Over 11 thousand prisoners will be released.  Inspectors to ensure our waters, air and soils are clean and not contaminated will be terminated. The Hospitals under privatization created under Governor Bobby Jindal will be terminated.  And, of course, there is so much more. 


Is this a scare tactic by the Governor Jon Bel Edwards administration?

No, these are projections coming from the Louisiana Legislative Fiscal Office in its just released, "The Focus on the Fisc" which starts with, "The state of Louisiana faces an unprecedented fiscal crisis as it approaches the final third of FY 16. As the legislature addresses a $960.5 M deficit for the current fiscal year in the 2016 First Extraordinary Session, it faces a projected deficit greater than $2 B in FY 17. In an effort to provide a clear indication of the fiscal situation, the Legislative Fiscal Office (LFO) presents the following summary..." 

It outlines the two components—revenues and expenditures, and the findings are not very pretty. With the startling drop in estimated revenues, here is a focus upon some of the cuts within state government: 

Culture, Recreation & Tourism – Office of State Parks - $14 M
The agency reports that it will not be able to address the backlog of repair and maintenance projects for the
aging system that includes almost 43,000 acres, 211 cabins, 26 group camps and lodges, 1,748 campsites, 54
rental pavilions, and other facilities totaling 1.2 million square feet and 110 miles of Park maintained roads
as a result of this reduction. This reduction may also result in an indeterminable number of park closures. [CRT’s
total reduction in SGF was $23.9 M, if we include this, do we need to break out the other components?
Office of Secretary - $2.3 M; State Library $2.8 M; State Museum $3.4 M; Cultural Development $1.2 M]

Minimum Foundation Program
The Minimum Foundation Program (MFP) provides for an equitable distribution of state funds to local
school districts. The MFP is the major source of state funding to local schools. For FY 16, the MFP is
funded at $3.678 B; $3.391 B in SGF and $287.16 M in Statutory Dedications from the Support Education in
LA First Fund ($109.7 M) and Lottery Proceeds Fund ($177.4 M). The FY 17 Executive Budget includes an
adjustment of $20.7 M for an anticipated increase of 4,595 students. Additionally, there is a $5.2 M MOF
swap replacing SGF with Lottery Proceeds funds ($3.7 M) and SELF funds ($1.5 M) based on the most
recent Revenue Estimating Conference (REC) forecast. FY 17 recommended funding totals $3.69 B; $3.40 B
SGF, $181.1 M Lottery Proceeds Fund and $111.2 M SELF Fund.

Department of Natural Resources – Office of Conservation - $2.3 M
DNR reports the proposed reduction in SGF expenditure authority will result in a direct impact on
program activities and a reduction of approximately 32 T.O. positions. The position eliminations will impact activities related to ground water inspection, oil and gas field inspections, commercial waste,
exploration and production waste, underground injection control, inspection and enforcement, and
production audit. DNR reports it would also close two of its three Office of Conservation district offices.

Department of Natural Resources – Office of Mineral Resources - $2.7 M
DNR reports that the proposed reduction of SGF, coupled with declining revenues in statutory dedications
related to oil and gas drilling and exploration, will result in the necessity to lay off approximately 50% of its
staff, approximately 31 or 32 of existing 61 authorized positions. The department reports significant
impacts on its abilities to oversee and administer royalty collection and audit functions, lease management,
geological and engineering review, and seismic permitting.

Corrections Services - $116.1 M
The Department’s proposals and estimated reductions include: amending sentencing requirements to
allow the release of 11,600 non-violent, non sex-crime offenders 1 year early ($52.3 M); closing 5 prisons:
Rayburn, Avoyelles, Dixon, and the privately run Winn and Allen ($35.2 M); eliminating increases for
equipment ($4.6 M) and pharmaceutical supplies ($2.9 M); ceasing all religious, athletic, education, and
substance abuse programming ($2 M) (maintains the Mental Health Programs); furloughing every non-
Security, non P&P agent employee 1 day per pay-period ($1.8 M); terminating 48 probational appointments
($1.7 M); and ceasing all overtime ($1.5 M).

Despite claims from some that Louisiana does not have a revenue problem, it has a spending problem, that no revenues need to be raised, the report is a wakeup call that if the state does not come up with revenues, assuming the revenue projections do not improve, it will be more than just "cutting waste, fraud and abuse" to right the budget ship.

Currently, the Republican-led legislature appears to be approving a sales tax to raise at least $200 million dollars, just for this year and possibly $900M for next year.

Here is the Fisc report.  If you get easily frightened reading horror stories, stay away from in during bed-time, or while eating. 

Last modified on Wednesday, 02 March 2016 11:23
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