The Jindal administration instructed wardens at five state prisons Friday to begin preparations for possibly laying off more than 1,000 employees.
State Department of Corrections Secretary Jimmy LeBlanc told the wardens in a memorandum that the layoffs might be necessary because of $27.5 million in cuts proposed by the House.
For copies of the memo written by Jimmy LeBlanc, the head of Louisiana prisons, go to
“We need you to proceed immediately in implementing a layoff for all positions at your institution,” LeBlanc wrote to wardens in Cottonport, DeQuincy, Pineville, Keithville and Angie.
Gov. Bobby Jindal said agency leaders need to be ready in case the cuts stay in place.
“It’s important to have as much time as possible to make plans,” he said.
However, Jindal said he is confident that the Legislature will adjourn June 23 with a state operating budget that does not include what he characterized as devastating reductions.
Several legislators accused the Jindal administration of trying to frighten them into embracing the governor’s proposed $25 billion state operating budget for the fiscal year that starts July 1.
House Speaker Jim Tucker, R-Terrytown, said the House’s cuts target the corrections agency’s bureaucracy, not the prison operations.
“I think it’s an overreaction,” he said. “I don’t think it’s necessary and I think it’s unfortunate that they’re playing politics with state employees,” Tucker said.
State Sen. Lydia Jackson, D-Shreveport and vice chairwoman of the Senate Finance Committee, said the governor is trying to persuade legislators to sell state prisons and turn over the operations to private companies rather than make budget reductions.
The prison sale proposal is scheduled to go before a House committee Monday.
“There’s been no legislative action to authorize the sale of prisons. I think this is an effort by the governor to advance that proposal.
“I hope we move beyond the politics of fear,” Jackson said.
House Bill 1, the proposed state spending plan, currently is before the Senate Committee on Finance.
The panel’s members are faced with supporting the House’s reworking of the state spending plan or returning to the version that Gov. Bobby Jindal proposed in March. They also could come up with their own approach although the House would have to agree to it.
The governor wants to sell prisons, reshuffle tobacco settlement dollars and force state workers to put more of their paychecks toward retirement costs to help balance a budget with a projected $1.6 billion shortfall.
The House purged those proposals from the plan and made more than $200 million in spending reductions.
Those reductions are at the heart of the “layoff timeline” memorandum that LeBlanc issued on Friday.
Affected would be Avoyelles Correctional Center in Cottonport, C. Paul Phelps Correctional Center in DeQuincy, J. Levy Dabadie Correctional Center in Pineville, Forcht-Wade Correctional Center in Keithville and Rayburn Correctional Center in Angie.
The prisons’ 1,144 positions would be eliminated on July 17, assuming Civil Service agrees to the layoff plan.
At the same time, state agency leaders are trying to make the case to the Senate that House budget cuts should be reversed.
State Police Col. Mike Edmonson told the Senate Committee on Finance on Friday that 10 to 12 troopers will lose their jobs if the reductions remain in place.
He said that is not an approach he wants to take.