BATON ROUGE, La.-- More than $165 million will be slashed from the state budget effective immediately, according to Governor Bobby Jindal's Commissioner of Administration. The cuts were announced during a joint legislative committee meeting on the budget, which took place at the state capitol on Friday.
"The governor has taken swift action to make responsible cuts, but also to make sure that we mitigate reductions to vital services through health care and higher education," said Commissioner of Administration Kristy Nichols.
The budget shortfall came after forecasted revenue had to be lowered, based, in part, on lower sales and personal income tax collections and the lower price of oil.
The largest cuts affect health and hospitals-- more than $50 million-- along with higher education, with more than $22 million in cuts. It is the fifth year in a row that state cuts have been needed to balance the budget, halfway through the fiscal year.
"It's a sign of what's happening in the economy. We see it all over the country," Senate President John Alario, R-Westwego. "Every state is having to wrestle with it. We wish there was some kind of other scientific way to tell us exactly what was going to happen, it certainly makes a big difference and it's hard to project it right to a science."
One thing some lawmakers say they want to look at is how to increase revenue, so they don't have to make more cuts in the future.
"This is not the first time we've been here," said Rep. Jared Brossett, D-New Orleans. "Our colleagues really need to consider suspending some of the tax exemptions or eliminating them."
Rep. Brossett said one of those ideas could include legislation that would require state sales tax to be applied to items purchased online.