Jindal’s Budget Won’t Cut Higher Education

Friday, February 10, 2012

Gov. Bobby Jindal proposed to keep total funding to public colleges and universities at current levels in the proposed state operating budget unveiled Thursday.

“There’s no cut. They’re fully funded,” the governor’s chief of staff, Stephen Waguespack, said Wednesday.

At least part of keeping the funding intact will include using dollars from tuition increases, he said.

The governor’s budget proposal launches a months-long debate on how state government should spend dollars in the fiscal year that begins July 1. The current state budget is $25 billion.

Complicating matters for the upcoming fiscal year is a projected $895 million shortfall.

Part of the state’s financial difficulties stems from using one-time money for recurring expenses in the current year’s operating budget. One-time money is revenue that will only materialize a single time.

Waguespack said Wednesday that $97 million in one-time money was used to fund higher education in the current spending year. He said that money will be replaced with a combination of student tuition increases and state general fund dollars.

He did not know exact funding figures.

The governor already proposed increasing the amount of money that state workers, including those in higher education, pay toward their retirements. The move would save the state money by decreasing the dollars the state contributes.

Waguespack said the governor wants to allow college campuses to keep the additional $100 million generated in higher education.

He said that money would be in addition to other funding the colleges and universities receive.

Ahead of Thursday’s state budget presentation, most legislators said they knew little about the governor’s proposal.

“No one’s talked to me about it. I don’t know where they’re at. I’m anxiously waiting,” said state Rep. Jim Morris, R-Oil City and a member of the House Appropriations Committee.

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