A Message from the President
March 10, 2016
Well, it's over! The Special Legislative Session ended yesterday at 6:00 p.m., and it was every bit as tumultuous as had been feared and predicted. Even with all the tumult, the outcome, as best we can tell at this point, is mixed.
At the start of the Session, the Governor reported a mid-year shortfall of nearly $1 billion in the current state budget. State agencies and programs, especially higher education and healthcare, had a great deal at stake. After making a number of sizable cuts in spending and raising a significant amount of new revenue to shore up state coffers, the Governor and Legislature seem to have confected a plan that appears to avoid significant additional reductions to higher education for the remainder of the current fiscal year. (More details about any resulting specific cuts will be shared with the campus when available.)
Many may grouse about the imperfections in leadership and representation that caused or exacerbated the fiscal challenges faced by our state in its recent history. Despite that reality, at least a number of somewhat workable measures to partially address the challenges were brought together by Governor Edwards and our legislators over the last few weeks.
There were many difficult choices and hard votes, but I want to thank our Governor for setting out with determination to address the challenge head on, and I want to thank many of our legislators who supported multiple measures that will help mitigate potentially devastating mid-year reductions in our current fiscal year.
Unfortunately, the State's budget for next fiscal year beginning July 1 is another matter entirely. For this upcoming 2017 fiscal year, the State originally faced a projected shortfall of almost $2 billion. Although some of the measures adopted during the recent Special Session will somewhat mitigate that shortfall, it appears that it still looms large at a nearly unbelievable amount of $800 million.
The Legislature will convene next Monday, March 14, for the regular 2016 Session which runs until June 6. This is a non-fiscal session, meaning that the Legislature is prohibited by the Constitution from considering any new taxes or increases in existing taxes. Nevertheless, during the Regular Session, the Legislature must craft a balanced budget, originating from the Executive Budget proposed by the Governor. It will not be a pretty sight, given that the proposed budget is expected to reflect nearly $800 million in reductions.
As always, I will provide more details as they become available.
John L. Crain