Posted by: Tim Mathis
Friday’s Senate Finance Committee Meeting provided further evidence that state budget cuts will have far reaching effects in Louisiana. Right now, Louisiana has the highest incarceration rate and is number one in violent crime in the country. To meet the challenge of reducing these figures, the Department of Public Safety and Corrections is working with $47 million less than last year and faces another $151 million cut in next year’s budget. According to Secretary LeBlanc, 78 percent of the prison population needs drug treatment and nearly half of those released eventually return to prison. Future cuts will jeopardize programs that provide drug treatment, probation and parole, and GED education. These programs keep our neighborhoods safe by helping prior offenders to play a productive role in society.
Another presentation by the Secretary of the Department of Children and Family Services detailed recent cost saving measures in spite of the fact that over 75 percent of the budget comes from the federal government. Future cuts may severely limit services for Louisiana’s neediest. The agency is charged with an important mission, providing 839,513 individuals with food stamps, overseeing 34,000 children in child care, ensuring timely payments of $30 million in child support, investigating 1,075 child abuse cases, and overseeing 4,200 foster children. In the past four years, food stamp recipients increased by 37 percent. Despite this growing need, DCFS is reducing the number of offices around the state from 165 to 110 and has eliminated 329 positions, many responsible for providing direct services to clients. In this case, maintaining funding is not a matter of fiscal responsibility. Reducing such services can, literally, be a matter of life and death, especially among the thousands of low-income children and families in Louisiana.