Robin Hood, Louisiana Style?
As state lawmakers grapple with the $1.6-billion shortfall in the next budget, the House Appropriations Committee has asked budget analysts to investigate each department’s fiscal ups-and-downs over the Jindal administration years. Legislative budget analyst Chris Keaton says overall state revenues have dropped much less than the shortfall would indicate.
“Total state General Fund that we had available to spend went from $9.3-billion in 2006-07, to $9-billion in 2015-16,” Keaton announced Wednesday.
Specifically, Appropriations was looking into Department of Health and Hospitals funding, and Keaton says their funding has gone up overall — by $1.6-billion.
“You might ask, how could we have increased DHH’s budget by $1.6-billion, when the total state general fund went down by $285-million?” Keaton asked, rhetorically, then answered.
“That’s largely had to come from other areas of state government. And one of the biggest areas was higher education. That took a $790-million reduction over the last eight years.”
Keaton noted that these dollar amounts are state funds only. The $1.6-billion DHH funding increase does not include any federal matching dollars.
Lake Charles Rep. Brett Geymann wasn’t sure he had heard correctly.
“Shifting monies from higher ed—can someone explain what that meant?” Geymann requested.
“Over $790-million that we took from higher education, now DHH’s budget is increased by that,” Keaton restated his findings. “So basically we re-prioritized where we were spending our General Fund.”
Geymann observed that it’s reminiscent of Robin Hood.
“So, in other words, we took higher education money and moved it to DHH, and increased fees to replace the money back in higher ed. Is that sort of the circle?” Geymann asked.
“You could say that,” Keaton replied.
“I did,” Geymann chuckled.
Health care and higher education are the two major areas of the budget unprotected by dedicated funding streams. Therefore they’ve been battling each other for shrinking state dollars. And so far, it seems, health care has come out on top.
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