La. State Budget Drama Concerns LSUS Chancellor
POSSIBLE IMPACT ON HIGHER-ED Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards will present his budget on January 19th. The budget will be reflecting the loss of the one-cent sales tax that expires June 30th. It's estimated that there will be a one-billion dollar-plus deficit causing cuts to healthcare and higher education. We continue the second-part of our visit with Chancellor Larry Clark of LSU in Shreveport. who offers his perspective on what impact the "fiscal cliff" will have on higher education in Louisiana.
CHANCELLOR CLARK: Were going to have a lot of drama in this state. The reason for the drama is the fact that the state could have a special session ahead of the general session. But they look like they're not going to do that. They need a special session to raise taxes. In the general session that comes up this time, they cannot raise revenue. The governor is going to be forced to come forth with a budget that is balanced." Clark mentioned that the only way the governor
can do that is to make reductions to healthcare and higher education because so many other things are protected by statute or by the constitution. He also added that we'll see a very dramatic cut to higher education.
CHANCELLOR CLARK: "One of the iterations of that that's been talked about by Dr. Joe Rallo who is the commissioner education for the board of regents, is the possibility of zero-ing out TOPS (Taylor Opportunity Program for Students) and putting that forward. He doesn't expect that tops will be zero. But it's one way to handle it versus the universities. We've been asked to come up with a 10% budget cut from the get-go, right now that we're working on now is what the impact would be. So rather than doing the 10% or some level, he's put that up as a trial balloon to see where that would go. And quite understandably, that balloon as been shot at from all sorts of directions."
Louisiana lawmakers, both republican and democrat have indicated the feedback from their constituents has been to keep TOPS funded, yet the realities of the fiscal cliff remain. Chancellor Clark weighed in on what the take-away is to all this.
CHANCELLOR CLARK: "The problem of having TOPS out there, or higher education out there as where you might make the cuts, even if those cuts don't happen . I don't believe they will be the kind of significant cuts that are going to be initially announced. It does terrible damage in terms of students that five years ago, would never have been thinking of going to universities such as University of Texas, Texas A&M, Arkansas, Alabama, you name it. They're now thinking about that and we're seeing a 'brain-drain' and the probability is those students aren't coming back to Louisiana after they get their degree. And that is cause serious, long-term potential consequences for the state. And that's one of the problems of the 'drama approach' that's being utilized. "