Better than expected: Louisiana’s budget deficit drops to $304M

    The outlook for Louisiana’s budget has gotten better—marginally.

    Commissioner of Administration Jay Dardenne says in a news release issued today that the deficit for the current fiscal year has dropped to $304 million, down from a previous estimate of $313 million. Dardenne’s office attributes the decrease to a state treasurer’s office calculation that the state will need $9 million less for debt service payments than originally expected, freeing up general fund money for other uses.

    Despite the good news, Dardenne, the state’s budget chief, says the gap is still massive enough to trigger steep cuts.

    “It’s better than our earlier number but it is still going to result in significant cuts,” Dardenne says in a prepared statement. “There’s no way around a reduction in services in areas that we have always deemed critical like higher education and health care. That’s where the general fund dollars are so it’s difficult not to include them on the cut list.”

    When the state’s income forecasting panel, the Revenue Estimating Conference, met last week, it pegged the budget shortfall to somewhere around $313 million. Officials have indicated that a special session is likely to address the deficit.

    Gov. John Bel Edwards’ administration has proposed using $119 million from the state’s Rainy Day Fund to help curb the gap, but House Republicans are expected to oppose the measure.

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