Louisiana Budget Project Advises Balanced Approach to Address Shortfall, Save Campuses

Louisiana Board of Regents officials warned the Senate Finance Committee today that eight higher education campuses may close as a result of planned cuts to the state budget.

LSU System President John Lombardi included in joint testimony the loss of entire campuses, along with reduced freshman and sophomore classes at 4-year colleges as necessary to replace $300 million that will not be available to higher education in FY2011. According to Lombardi, as much as one-third of the higher education system could be lost.

Even with efficiencies and tuition increases, warned Regents officials, deep and substantial cuts are inevitable with the budget reduction. They predicted a 15-year setback in state higher education.

“Sadly, this is not the first wake-up call we’ve had about a crisis in higher education,” said Louisiana Federation of Teachers President Steve Monaghan. “But it begs the question: When will we listen? Losing an entire generation of students is simply not an option.”

The nonpartisan Louisiana Budget Project, attending today’s hearings, says a balanced approach to the current fiscal crisis could preserve Louisiana’s educational system.

“Louisiana’s current situation is due in significant part to tax cuts our state can no longer afford,” said Edward Ashworth, LBP Director. “As a result, the state no longer has sufficient funds to pay for needed programs.” Tax cuts reduce vital state revenues that even severe reductions in state spending cannot recapture.

Ashworth noted that current modeling indicates “Louisiana will have fewer higher education options for our children because of these revenue decisions.”

Louisiana is not alone. Thirty-three other states are facing similar declines, but have responded with revenue increases in combination with spending cuts. Louisiana is distinctive in its decision to respond to the crisis solely with spending cuts. LBP research indicates that Louisiana, like other states, must recover revenues lost to tax breaks and the Stelly rollbacks.

“Today’s news is continuing evidence of the dire consequences of a cuts-only approach to our fiscal crisis,” said Ashworth. “Citizens and decision-makers should understand that we have a choice. We need to choose a balanced approach that includes increases in revenue along with prudent cuts in spending.”