Jindal uses fund sweeps to plug most of deficit

Gov. Bobby Jindal’s administration will use $130 million in patchwork financing from a tax amnesty program, insurance settlement, uninsured motorist penalties and other excess funds to close most of the state’s midyear budget deficit, under a plan unveiled to lawmakers today.

The money, combined with $50 million in state agency cuts, will rebalance the $25 billion budget for the fiscal year that ends June 30. Public colleges were shielded from slashing.

“This approach has probably mitigated major cuts to health care and higher education. I’m pleased with it,” says Rep. Jim Fannin, R-Jonesboro, chairman of the Joint Legislative Committee on the Budget.

Commissioner of Administration Kristy Nichols, the governor’s chief budget adviser, said the plan balances the budget “without jeopardizing critical services.”

Most of the hits to agencies come from not filling vacant jobs, reducing contracts and spending fewer dollars for travel and supplies. The state will lessen spending on supplies for road maintenance work, public school testing contracts and mentor programs for at-risk youth.

Nearly $4 million will be saved because Louisiana’s voucher program that sends students to private schools with taxpayer dollars had 700 fewer students than expected. Health care contracts at state prisons will shrink.

While the health department accounts for more than a third of the state’s total budget, it received only a $5 million cut. Start dates for some of its contracts will be delayed, travel and supply purchases will be reduced, and jobs won’t be filled.

“I do feel like these are reductions that we can take without affecting services to people,” Health and Hospitals Secretary Kathy Kliebert says.

Lawmakers will vote on the plan next month, though Fannin said he didn’t expect resistance for most of the ideas. The Associated Press has the full story, as well as a closer look at the adjustments being made to fill the budget shortfall.

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