State Representative Bernard LeBas gave Ville Platte Rotarians an update on what is going in Baton Rouge during the regular session of the state legislature.
LeBas explained that the legislature held a special session to prior to this regular session to find $750 million to balance the budget before the fiscal year ends June 30. Lawmakers approved adding a one cent sales tax for the next 27 months.
During the regular session now going on, the legislature discovered they are still 70 million dollars short from having a balanced budget. The governor has decided not to make any additional cuts in higher education so the cuts will primarily be made in health care.
The Tops program to help students pay for their college education was cut by 20 percent this year. The colleges are absorbing the cuts rather than passing it on. Lawmakers are looking at making it tougher to get the Tops funding like raising the ACT scores and capping it. He said the current formula to pay for Tops is “unsustainable”. Another proposal is if students don’t make the grades they will have to pay the tuition back to the state.
LeBas said lawmakers are trying to reach across the aisle and work together to solve the major fiscal problems. There should be no further cuts to local services such as Chicot State Park, Health Unit and Driver’s License Office.
One area, the legislature is looking over with a fine tooth comb is reviewing the large number of consulting contracts to see if they could save money by dropping them. Lawmakers are also looking at the 197 tax exemptions the state is giving to groups and companies.
LeBas was the special guest of Rotarian Nick LeBas.