BATON ROUGE — Louisiana House legislative leaders are clashing with Gov. John Bel Edwards over how to use Louisiana’s $535 million budget surplus, as the state faces new budget pressures during the coronavirus outbreak. The Democratic governor has proposed to spend much of the surplus on state building repairs, road and bridge work, coastal protection projects and levee work. The Edwards’ administration says the projects could stimulate an economy struggling because of the pandemic and put people to work. House Republican leaders have stripped much of that spending from the state construction budget. They're instead proposing to sock away more surplus dollars into savings or debt payments. They cite financial uncertainties because of the coronavirus.
Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards said his budget proposal to the Legislature saves the state's popular college tuition program TOPS, K-12 and social services from cuts, but it trims higher education and healthcare. At his press conference yesterday Edwards was asked to describe how he felt about his proposed budget.
"It's one that I believe is responsible and it's prudent," Edwards said. "It's about the best I think you can do under the circumstances given the REC forecast we've gotten on Monday of last week."
Governor Edwards was referring to the state’s Revenue Estimating Conference’s forecast that came out last week which indicated the state’s revenue intake for the coming year would be about $900 million dollars less than expected. As for the spending cuts, the Governor said most state agencies would suffer a 2% cut. The Louisiana Department of Health would be cut by $18 million dollars under the governor's proposal, but Edwards explained, "None of those cuts would affect Medicaid programs."