Louisiana is no stranger to budget crises. Once again, the state finds itself stuck in the middle of a dilemma that could greatly impact its citizens.
Gov. John Bel Edwards’ proposed plan will affect many programs. According to The Advocate, the proposal will include an 80 percent cut to the Taylor Opportunity Program for Students, along with cuts to public colleges and universities, mental health rehab and substance abuse services.
The steep reduction to TOPS in Edwards’ proposed budget has led many to call for a better solution – one of which was University of Louisiana System President Jim Henderson. He believes the program should remain funded, according to the News Star in Monroe, Louisiana.
While Henderson has been a staunch advocate for TOPS, Louisiana State University President F. King Alexander believes the state legislature should not fund the program if it is “at the expense of direct funding to higher education,” as reported by the News Star.
Northwestern State University President Chris Maggio has also expressed concern about Edwards’ plan. In an email sent to NSU alumni, Maggio urged them to assist current students.
“Such deep reductions in TOPS scholarships would have a drastically negative impact on funding and enrollment at Northwestern,” he said. “A substantial percentage of students receiving TOPS would not be able to stay in school.”
The so-called “doomsday budget” would be devastating to health and educational services as well. These services are often hurt by cuts due to regulations that limit how the state spends its money, according to The Advocate.
Edwards’ proposal would mean NSU would face a “slow and painful” recovery, according to Maggio. He called on the university’s alumni to contact state legislators and voice their concerns with the budget proposal.
“The proposed cut to the university’s budget and the loss of revenues from TOPS scholarships would make it necessary for Northwestern to dip into reserves and curtail programs and services,” Maggio said.
Edwards himself is also at odds with the proposal. According to The Advocate, Edwards told state lawmakers he didn’t want to make these cuts. State Treasurer John Schroder has been vocal about his disapproval of the budget and called the system “broken.”
“The budget plan … does not address the underlying problems with state government spending and misses an opportunity for true reform and savings,” Schroder said in a press release.
In his criticism of the governor, Schroder listed his own suggestions for reform: “Review all expenditures, credits, rebates and exemptions. Collect unrecovered state debt … Revamp the Medicaid Program to reduce fraud and implement work requirements and co-pays.
“Unlock dedications and remove unnecessary obstacles to prioritize state spending. Reform the budget structure and process for long-term improvements. Adopt a pro-growth tax code … Reform capital outlay to focus on statewide infrastructure priorities.”