LSU AgCenter Asks Supporters To Take Action As Budget Cuts Loom
BATON ROUGE – As the LSU AgCenter faces drastic budget cuts due to a deficit in the state's budget, the institution is asking supporters to contact their State Senators and Representatives to:
• Educate them on the value of the Center’s programs and its impact on communities.
• Explain that further budget reductions will cause the elimination of parish based extension services, termination of valuable research initiatives, closure of research stations and reduction in teaching programs.
• Stress the importance of quickly finding solutions to resolve the budget issue.
LSU AgCenter reps said there is an estimated $912 million hole in the current operating budget for the State caused by overestimated revenue collections and increased operation costs. Additionally, based on current revenue collections and the use of non-recurring funds in the operating budget, next year's budget is expected to have a more than $2 billion shortfall. They said all budgetary decisions for the current year's deficit and next year's shortfall must be made during the special session, which ends March 9.
Reps said the Governor is proposing the use of existing (one-time) funds and new revenue sources including:
• Existing Revenue
Rainy Day Fund – $128M
BP Settlement funds not dedicated to coastal – $200M
Reduction statutory dedicated funds not constitutionally protected by 10%
• New Revenue Generators
"Clean Penny" Sales tax – Exempt groceries, prescription drugs and residential utilities
Renew and increase landline and cellphone telecom tax to flat 5%
Increase tobacco tax from $0.86 to $1.08/ pack
Potential internet sales tax
Repeal business utilities sales tax exemption
Others can be found on Governor's web site
If new revenue sources are not identified and adopted, LSU AgCenter reps said the following scenario would be implemented based on available revenues:
• A current year reduction of this magnitude would require immediate financial exigency to implement layoffs, furloughs and cancellation of existing contracts.
• It would be necessary to terminate programs at research stations.
• Layoffs would eliminate the parish based extension model.
• 4-H programs would be significantly impacted, or eliminated as a result of less agents available to conduct programs (4-H currently reaches 187,000 individual youth in the state).
• Academic departments eliminated and degree programs in the College of Agriculture would be significantly consolidated and downsized.