BATON ROUGE, La. -- The mounting budget deficit in Baton Rouge is forcing the Louisiana State Police to absorb some tough cuts.
Right now the deficit is estimated at about $1.6 billion.
Superintendent Mike Edmonson said for a second year in a row, his department cannot afford to train a new recruit class. He said it's the only big ticket item he can cut.
'If you look over the past three years within the Department of Public Safety, we've cut 499 positions,' said Edmonson. 'In the state police budget alone, we've cut $30 million dollars out of it. If I have to go further cuts into the state police budget, it's people. 90 percent of my budget is salaries and related benefits.'
Metairie State Representative Tony Ligi, who sits on the House Appropriations Committee, said its a tough move, but it's better than taking troopers off the highways.
'I think the colonel's action is indicative of his thinking beyond the box to make it work with the money he's got to work with,' said Ligi.
This week, Edmonson also announced a plan designed to temporarily fill some slots until new recruits can be hired again.
Retired troopers would be allowed to work up to 25 hours a week at a reduced pay with no benefits.
'Here's a chance for someone to retire and they can come back at an hourly salary that equivalent to an entry level, maybe a little bit more than that,' said Edmonson. 'I save money. The job gets done and people feel safe.'
State lawmakers who will soon travel to Baton Rouge to cobble together a balanced spending plan say the state police cuts underscore the size of this year's budget hole.
'Government has to restructure itself,' said Ligi. 'There's no if, and or buts.'
Edmonson said despite the impending cuts, he still plans to send 125 troopers to Mardi Gras in New Orleans.
'That's important to me. When you have a million people on Mardi Gras in the French Quarter and the CBD, it's important that we have a show of force there,' said Edmonson.
The state police also put 100 troopers who were behind a desk back on the highway.