Louisiana higher education braces for large budget cuts

By Kamel Benyahia

The Revenue Estimating Conference recently told Gov. Bobby Jindal’s administration to reduce the budget even further, in addition to the predicted $300 to $400 million dollar cuts expected later this year. The additional cuts could amount to $50 to $100 million dollars more in budget cuts for Louisiana higher education. The coming $300 million dollar cut to the Louisiana college system is equal to the entire operating budget of Louisiana community colleges, according to a recent article written by Julia O’Donoghue of The Times-Picayune.

Delgado has already streamlined degree programs and absorbed others into the general education category. Further cuts to the budget could and probably will impact more programs and jobs at Delgado. During the Chat with the Chancellor meeting towards the end of the Fall 2014 semester, Chancellor Joan Davis stated that the state has money for new construction projects, but not for teachers in the new classrooms. Chancellor Davis also stated that the college would be looking into alternative sources of revenue to mitigate the impact of the budget cuts.

The oil industry has a lot to do with the impending budget cuts. Falling oil prices can be attributed to increased production by OPEC leading to overproduction of oil worldwide, declining demand from a weak global economy, and an expanding alternative energy market. Taxes generated from oil revenue account for roughly 13 percent of Louisiana’s general fund and the recent trends have negatively impacted the budget by $1.4 billion.

Tax credits have also had an impact on the state. Film tax credits and other business credits are getting larger every year costing Louisiana taxpayers more and more. This is money that otherwise could be spent on healthcare and education. The amount of money we give to Hollywood studios, close to $250 million in 2012, according to Louisiana Budget Project for bringing their business to Louisiana, is rivaling the entire operating budget of Louisiana’s technical and community college system. If the current trend of Hollywood studios keeps going, taxpayers will be subsidizing Hollywood studio’s coffers instead of colleges and other necessary services. Bobby Jindal has been steadfast in his support of these tax credits, despite pressure from conservatives in the state to roll back some of these expenditures.

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