State budget cuts looming for legislature

NEW ORLEANS -- Louisiana lawmakers are expecting deep budget cuts after the state's Revenue Forecasting Committee meets next Monday.

That's when the panel is expected to give its latest projection on how much money the state has to spend during the current and next fiscal years.

"Obviously, next Monday will be pretty apocalyptic," said Sen. J.P. Morrell, D-New Orleans.

Morrell said 5 percent mid-year state budget cuts are already looming.

"The cuts, 5 percent for most departments are going to definitively impact services."

House Appropriations Committee Vice Chair Rep. Bryan Adams, R-Terrytown, said state mineral royalties and taxes are down because of a dramatic drop in the price of oil.

But, he said other state revenue is beginning to pick up, and that means mid-year cuts may not be as bad as originally projected.

"The $300 million (cut) that we thought, with the taxes that are coming in, personal income taxes, corporate taxes, we're looking somewhere between $50 million and $100 million (in cuts)," said Adams. "It's going to be a lot less than we anticipated."

Both Adams and Morrell see major challenges ahead for the state's 2015-2016 budget year. Louisiana's budget year begins in July.

"We're looking at somewhere between $1.2 billion and $1.4 billion in cuts," said Adams. "With that, we've asked each of the departments again to look across their budget to finds a cut within 15 percent."

"We've existed in this mentality where we rob Peter to pay Paul to make the budget solvent every year," said Morrell. "That's largely been the fact that one-time money has been used repeatedly to plug the budget."

There are now renewed calls for lawmakers to reduce or eliminate state tax breaks.

"Everything needs to be back on the table at one time and we need to see economically which of these different things that we're giving away is really viable," said Morrell.

"We need to look at our tax structure," said Adams. "We need to review our whole tax structure, corporate taxes, income taxes, come up with a better idea."

Lawmakers will likely tackle the tax code next January, after a new governor is elected.


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