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Politics

Louisiana policy expert: 'State lawmakers are in a difficult box'

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The president of the government advocacy group Council for a Better Louisiana, Barry Erwin, will brief the Bossier Chamber of Commerce business community Thursday about topics that will be addressed during the legislative session that opens April 13.

The session boils down to two heated debates: budget and Common Core standards, according to Erwin. Lawmakers face a $1.6 billion budget gap in a system where health care and higher education bear the brunt of the revenue shortfall because the rest of the state budget is less malleable.

“Now we’re left with the really difficult decisions about how much do we cut. Where do we cut? Do we cut really that deep? Or, are we going to try and find some way to raise revenues? That’s the difficult box that the Legislature is in right now,” Erwin said.

Erwin predicts this box will heat up in debate and gloves will come off. He says normally during election years the legislative session moves smoothly as lawmakers avoid controversy. This year, he says, there will be finger pointing. Higher education, in particular, could face hundreds of millions in cuts.

“It really is real this time. And higher ed cannot sustain $500 million in cuts for sure. $200 million is going to be really, really difficult in and of itself because the state dollars have gone down so much already that there’s really not much more there that they’re getting,” Erwin said.

The session must end June 11. Erwin believes a more extreme wave of budget tightening will occur next year, a problem that a new governor and Legislature will tackle. Erwin speaks Thursday, March 26, at 11:30 a.m. at the Hilton Garden Inn in Bossier City.

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