BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — One of Louisiana's chief budget-writers said Thursday he feels better about coping with the state's more than $1 billion shortfall after getting a sneak peek at Gov. Bobby Jindal's spending recommendations for next year.
Appropriations Committee Chairman Jim Fannin said he received a high-level overview from Jindal administration officials before the governor's 2013-14 budget recommendations are made public Friday. The plan includes privatization plans and debt refinancing to balance the multibillion-dollar proposal, Fannin said.
"We still have tremendous issues, but I feel better, at least at this point, about the budget than I felt at this point last year," Fannin, D-Jonesboro, said in an interview.
The state would need another $1.3 billion above its estimated income to maintain existing programs and services in the fiscal year beginning July 1, while also accounting for inflation, budget analysts say.
He said he doesn't yet know the details of where cuts will fall — and he acknowledges that could change his perspective as legislative budget analysts comb through the plans.
"I'm two weeks away from knowing what's really in it," Fannin said.
Jindal planned a Thursday afternoon news conference to give some insight into what his budget proposal will contain.
Fannin said the Jindal administration anticipates significant savings from privatization plans for the LSU charity hospital system that are still under development and continues the cuts made in December across higher education, health care programs and social services.
The committee chairman said the budget proposal anticipates using the savings from a possible refinancing of the state's tobacco settlement to plug holes as well. The Jindal administration has estimated such a refinancing, which hasn't yet been approved, could generate as much as $85 million in savings.
Jindal proposes state general fund cuts to public colleges, but those reductions will be offset with tuition increases so higher education spending overall would stay flat, Fannin said.
The governor and lawmakers have stripped more than $625 million in state financing from colleges and universities since 2008, according to the Board of Regents, and only part of that slashing has been made up with tuition.
As always, the budget proposal contains one-time, piecemeal funding to pay for ongoing state government programs and services, Fannin said.
That will fuel continued criticism from a group of House Republicans who complain the use of money that doesn't reappear year after year perpetuates a cycle of ongoing financial problems for the state, when the dollars fall away and need to be replaced.