Monday, February 9, 2015

Monday, February 9, 2015

LSU could be devastated by budget cuts; More than 100 jobs lost in latest midyear cuts; Failure to expand Medicaid blamed for ER closure; and K-12 student support ‘up in the air’


LSU could be devastated by budget cuts
In less than three weeks Gov. Bobby Jindal will lay out his recommendations for patching the $1.6 billion state budget deficit. But the AP’s Melinda Deslatte provided a sneak peak at some of the cuts that are under consideration for higher education when she obtained internal documents that outline what what a 35 percent cut might look like for LSU.


The potential implications of such hefty cuts were summed up in stark terms: 1,433 faculty and staff jobs eliminated; 1,572 courses cut; 28 academic programs shut down across campuses; and six institutions declaring some form of financial emergency. At the system’s flagship university in Baton Rouge, the documents say 27 percent of faculty positions would have to be cut, along with 1,400 classes, jeopardizing the accreditation of the engineering and business colleges. Some campus buildings would be closed.


More than 100 jobs lost in latest midyear cuts

While next year’s budget recommendations are still being worked out, the latest round of midyear cuts was announced Friday, and the result is that more than 100 state workers will lose their jobs as a result. The cuts affect most areas of state government, though higher education was spared in this latest go-round, and are part of a plan to plug a $103 million deficit caused by lower-than-expected revenues.


Most of the layoffs will come in the state Office of Culture, Recreation and Tourism, which is run by Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne and is  being forced to absorb $3.5 million in cuts. Other cuts include state aid to regional human service districts, and money meant to expand waiver services that allow the elderly and people with disabilities to get care in their homes and communities. As Dardenne told


“We have done everything we could do to avoid closures and layoffs. This was a last resort for us,” said Dardenne, who is also running for governor this year. Dardenne will also have to close three historic sites until at least June. Fort Pike State Historic Site in New Orleans has already closed. Plaquemine Lock in Plaquemine and Marksville State Historic Site in Marksville will also shutter until at least July 1, and possibly longer. The pools at nearly every Louisiana state park will also be shut down. Dardenne said the only pool to stay open across the 22 sites is the wave pool at Bayou Segnette State Park in Westwego.


Failure to expand Medicaid blamed for ER closure

The decision by Baton Rouge General Medical Center to close its mid-city emergency room was noticed all the way out in Los Angeles, where columnist Michael Hiltzik says the state’s failure to extend Medicaid coverage to the working poor is largely to blame.


The ACA was designed to encourage states to expand Medicaid–almost entirely at federal expense–as a means of cutting the uncompensated medical care hospitals had been forced to provide for low-income individuals and families. Much of that care has been customarily delivered through the ER. In the expectation that Medicaid would pick up the slack, the ACA reduced so-called disproportionate share hospital payments, which went to hospitals serving a large number of the uninsured. So institutions in states that have refused to expand Medicaid, like Louisiana, have faced a double-whammy–they still have to serve a large number of uninsured patients, but they have less money to do so.


K-12 student support ‘up in the air’

Basic state support for K-12 students was frozen for years at $3,855 a student as Louisiana’s revenues fell due to the recession and ill-advised income tax cuts that benefited the wealthy, before being modestly increased last year. As the price of educating a child has increased, local school district have in reality been dealing with a annual cuts in state aid. The Advocate reports:


The aid, which goes through a complex formula called the Minimum Foundation Program, is the lifeblood for a system used by about 720,000 students…But the state’s latest money woes have sparked worries that public schools face their biggest threat since spending per student was first frozen in 2009 and then for years afterward.


Forecasts this time range from a freeze in state aid to a modest increase…An outright reduction, which has not happened in recent memory, has been mentioned but is considered less likely unless Louisiana’s budget picture takes another downturn.


An education task force set up to study the MFP recommended a $75 million bump for next year to help local districts, but with the state’s revenue situation bleaker than ever, legislators are questioning whether an increase is possible. The Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) is responsible for drafting the annual MFP formula, which then goes to the Legislature for an up-or-down vote.


Number of the Day


111 – Number of people who will lose their jobs due to mid-year budget cuts (Source: The Advocate)