Louisiana legislators approved Friday morning cuts to the state’s operating budget for the fiscal year that started July 1.
The move by the Joint Legislative Committee on the Budget also means that after elections this fall, the new governor and new legislators will need to find $713 million to balance the budget for next fiscal year.
And that doesn’t include any recalculation necessary if the price of oil doesn’t rebound. The state’s $25 billion operating budget for this fiscal year is calculated on an average annual price of oil at $61.70 per barrel. The price today is in the low $40 per barrel range.
LSU economist Jim Richardson, a member of the Revenue Estimating Conference, said unless the price starts going up by October, state officials will have to revisit and readjust the state spending plan later this year. The state Constitution requires a balanced budget and if revenues are found to be not coming in as projected, state law requires mid-year corrections. He spoke after the panel approved early Friday the revenues projected to be raised by budget moves made during the last session.
Democratic New Orleans Sen Ed Murray pointed out that the budget is substantially out of balance at the current price of oil.
Before accepting the REC decision, the joint legislative budget committee, packing the hearing room, authorized budget cuts of about $4.6 million.
Higher education accounts for $3.8 million of those reductions.
House Appropriations Chairman Jim Fannin, R-Joneboro, said this would give the agencies a longer time to address the shortfall.