Road Rage on the Budget Bus

Apr 23, 2015

As lawmakers wrap up week two of the fiscal session, their efforts to steer the budget bus keep hitting curbs. Now they’re starting to exhibit some road rage.

In the Senate Education Committee Wednesday, a bill that would uncouple TOPS scholarship amounts from future college tuition hikes — in order to contain the cost to the state — drew opposition from the administration.

“This legislation would negatively impact the program,” Jindal policy advisor Stafford Palmieri stated, “Because we’ve broken our promise to fully pay for their tuition to go to college.”

“You oppose this plan?” Baton Rouge Senator Dan Claitor asked. “Then show us your plan. How do you propose to support higher education?”

Ville Platte Senator Eric LaFleur wasn’t buying into the administration objections, either, saying, “Since January 14, 2008, we have cut $603-million from higher ed. I’m trying to figure out how we look at that as a strong, strong commitment to higher education.”

Over in House Education, Hammond Rep. Chris Broadwater had a bill to lift legislative limitations on fees colleges charge students. Some committee members said they worried how parents would receive that. Broadwater vented his frustration over the entire push-pull on how to fix the budget problem and preserve higher education.

“You know, it’s like everything I’ve heard coming into this session. One-point-6 billion dollar deficit. ‘Y’all make sure you don’t hurt higher education, but by the way, maintain my solar tax credits.’ ‘We got a $1.6-billion deficit? Make sure you don’t hurt higher education, but hey—don’t take that inventory tax back home.’ ‘We got a $1.6-billion deficit? Y’all make sure you protect health care and higher education, but don’t touch the particular credit that’s important to me.’

“At some point, we’re either going to protect higher education or we aren’t. We’re either going to fund it, or we aren’t. Right now, we’re not funding it.”

The indignation prevailed, as bills to remove legislative oversight of tuition and fees, and to uncouple TOPS from tuition hikes advanced in both chambers.

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