DALLAS — Top Louisiana officials said Monday that higher education and public health would be devastated by fiscal 2013 spending cuts mandated by a budget passed late last week by the House.
Commissioner of administration Paul Rainwater, the chief budget aide of Gov. Bobby Jindal, said the $267.7 million of one-time money taken from the $25 billion budget would have to come out of discretionary spending for essential services.
“The practical impact of the House actions will be to cut higher education and health care despite the fact that there are available funds,” he said at Monday’s session of the Senate Finance Committee.
The House adopted the spending measure, HB 1, late Friday after a day-long deadlock on using the non-recurring revenues to balance the budget.
The budget includes an amendment added during floor debate that directs the administration to reduce spending by $311 million to avoid using the one-time revenues included in Jindal’s proposal.
The amendment states that the cuts, which were not specified, should not affect critical services, but Rainwater and others said they would do exactly that.
The $311 million can only come from general fund discretionary spending, Rainwater said. He warned that there might not be enough fuel for state police cars or bedding for prisoners in state penitentiaries if the cuts are enacted. “There’s not a lot of fluff in the budget,” he said.
Rainwater said the $178 million of potential cuts to public health programs would result in the loss of another $350 million in federal matching funds.
Bruce Greenstein, secretary of the Department of Health and Hospitals, said the cuts would force the closing of a mental health hospital, eliminate school health programs and end the funding for cancer screening of Medicaid patients.
Medicaid provider payments would be reduced by almost 10%, Greenstein said, which would cause many doctors and clinics to drop out of the program. “These are not meant to scare anyone or put fear in groups to get mobilized,” he said. “We are actually giving the best-case scenario, and the best-case scenario is pretty bad.”
Higher education can expect cuts totaling more than $225 million from the budget proposed by Jindal, according to Rainwater.
William Jenkins, the interim president of the Louisiana State University system, told the committee that the system would see state aid cuts of $98 million in fiscal 2013, including $42 million to the main campus at Baton Rouge. More than 1,300 employees would be laid off, he said.
“We will be on the brink of cataclysm. The best and the brightest could leave, impacting LSU for generations to come,” Jenkins said. “It’s difficult to deny we have very serious potential consequences to deal with.”
House Appropriations Committee chairman Jim Fannin, D-Jonesboro, said the House acted improperly when it adopted the budget amendment without specifying the spending cuts.
“In my opinion, that was unconstitutional,” he told the Senate committee. “We are charged as a legislative body to balance the budget.”