Jindal’s $24.6B budget aims to avoid tax hikes, limit cuts

As Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal today offered up a $24.6 billion state budget proposal, The Associated Press reports the potential presidential hopeful is seeking to protect his longstanding refusal to raise taxes while avoiding deep slashes to health care and colleges that might damage a national campaign.

The Republican governor’s administration today showed lawmakers his proposal to close a $1.6 billion shortfall for the budget year that begins July 1.

The plan would avoid worst-case scenarios of widespread college program closures and health service shutdowns. But it puts Jindal at odds with the business community, because it seeks to scale back $526 million in tax credits, mostly to businesses. Lawmakers also are being asked to consider fee hikes on college students, businesses and drivers to drum up new cash without violating Jindal’s rigid rule against tax increases.

To help close a remaining $210 million gap in higher education, the Jindal administration offered a list of money-generating suggestions. One would add millions in new fees on college students and offer a tax break in exchange. The dollars to pay for that tax break would come from an increase in the state’s cigarette tax.

LSU President F. King Alexander released a statement this afternoon in which he calls the cuts “significant.”

“This is the beginning of a long process where we will work with the Legislature and the governor to ultimately restore funding for public higher education to its appropriate levels,” says King, adding: “We are also pursuing our own creative solutions for financial stability.”

Southern University System President Ronald Mason Jr. issued a similar statement this afternoon, saying, “While the budget cuts to higher education included in the proposed budget for 2015-2016 are much less than anticipated, they are still significant. The only manageable scenario is zero cuts.”

The Associated Press has the full story on the budget presentation today and reaction from lawmakers.

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