Louisiana is a fiscal mess. The state’s budget is in the worst shape it’s been in for a generation, years of neglect leaving a staggering $900m deficit that lawmakers have to close before 30 June to balance this year’s books. Once that’s done, there isn’t going to be any easing up. Next year’s financial situation is set to be even worse, with a staggering $2bn shortfall on the horizon. Two weeks ago, the state’s credit rating was downgraded for the first time in more than a decade.
When [Democratic Governor Kathleen] Blanco left office, the state’s finances were between $1b and $1.8b in the black. As soon as he took charge in January 2008, [Republican Governor Bobby] Jindal immediately increased spending by $1b and cut taxes by $600m. When the oil market later tanked, the economy was suddenly in big trouble.
It’s a nervous wait for those on the receiving end of potential cuts. [new Democratic Governor John Bel] Edwards is looking to restructure business taxes to go along with the one-penny sales tax hike and a cigarette and alcohol tax increase the state house passed last week. However, many in the legislature would rather hike sales taxes further or slash even more spending, moves that would disproportionally affect those on lower incomes.
Especially controversial are bills like HB 122, which would cut $100m in funding from healthcare for the mentally ill, the department of education and many other state programs. [clarification added by The Secular Jurist]