2015 legislative session promises to be difficult

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Louisiana delegates will converge on the state capital in the coming days for the 2015 legislative session.

Though there will be many bills and issues on the table, this year’s session has been dubbed the tale of two issues – the state budget and Common Core. In the forefront is the state budget.

Faced with a $1.6 billion revenue shortfall, legislators will have the task of finding a solution to the budget.

“The problem this year is Louisiana has run out of “temporary” dollars to balance the budget,” said Barry Erwin, president of the Council for a Better Louisiana (CABL). “The budget relies on $526 million the state doesn’t have. Their answer is to cut spending.”

Erwin, the guest speaker at the Bossier Chamber of Commerce’s pre-session update, said cuts will more than likely be made to higher education and healthcare.  There have been $700 million cuts made to higher education since 2009, Erwin said, and another $211 million possible this year.

“I don’t know how you cut that amount of money and can say, as a state, that you’re proud of what you’re doing in higher education,” he said. “If we cut post secondary education, that’s like killing the goose that’s trying to lay the golden egg.”

Like education, the possible healthcare cuts are looming around $165 million. The key to this session, Erwin said, is for legislators to stay revenue neutral.

“I do not believe this session is geared, in any way, to finding a long term solution to our budget,” Erwin said. “Options are limited and we’ll probably see a patchwork of cuts. I think they will do whatever they can to fix it on a temporary basis.”

The good news is that this year’s session will set the table for next year. With a new Governor coming in along with new legislators, Erwin said that will be the group poised to sustaining the budget for the future.

“They will decide where we want to end up as a state and where we desire to be as a state,” Erwin added.

State Representative Henry Burns (Dist. 9) asked the public for prayers during this session.

“This will be a tough session,” Burns said. “Hopefully we can put our minds together and come up with a solution.”