The Legislature has started considering next year's budget, including $700 million in cuts. On Tuesday, Commissioner of Administration Jay Dardenne, the state’s chief budget officer, set the scene for the House Appropriations committee.
“You have to go where the dollars are to find the cuts," he explained.
And most of those dollars are in health care and higher education. Over half of the proposed cuts would be made to the Department of Health. Dardenne says that would impact a range of health care programs, like financial waivers for families with disabled children, psychiatric care and nursing care.
On top of that, concerns were raised about the state's safety net hospitals — those run by a private partner, with state funding. Dardenne says some hospitals, like the new University Medical Center in New Orleans, have already given notice that if the state can't pay their share, they'd have to back out of the partnership.
The Commissioner explains, "that means, for the state, 'here’s your hospital, we're giving it back to you. We're not going to run it any longer. You're not going to pay us like you told us you would."
Dardenne says those concerns extend to state hospital partners in Alexandria, Lake Charles, Lafayette and Baton Rouge.
"It's not a threat, and it's not a scare tactic. It's the reality of what's going to happen if we don't have the money or you can't reshuffle cuts to avoid the cuts I'm talking about," he says.
If any additional revenue is raised, Dardenne says backfilling cuts to the department of health would be a priority. But, even under that scenario, other funding needs would be met first — which means these safety net hospitals would still be at risk.
"They are not provided for in the budget right now, so they're putting us on notice," he warns.