LA Sen. Jack Donahue

Governor Talks TOPS

Nov 17, 2016
LOSFA

Students attending school on TOPS scholarships are receiving letters that they’ll owe 60% of their tuition in the Spring semester. Speaking on his monthly radio show, Governor John Bel Edwards says it didn’t have to be this way. 


“At this point, we do not have the luxury of amending this bill,” Senate Revenue and Fiscal Affairs chairman J.P. Morrell told the Senate, so on this final day of the special session, House Bill 50 was considered without an expected amendment that could have raised another $88-million.

“House Bill 50 simply changes the way the capital gains tax is able to be refunded,” Jennings Senator Blade Morris explained.

S. Lincoln

After the Senate Finance Committee advanced HB 122 Thursday -- with less draconian cuts than its author Cameron Henry wanted -- the full House did pass the cigarette tax hike.

“It would bring in an additional 16 million in fiscal year ‘16; $47-million in fiscal year ’17,” its author, Speaker Pro Tem Walt Leger explained.

But the House did little else to advance bills for alleviating the state budget shortfalls.

Over on the Senate floor, though, the stress of that little progress was showing as senators worked through the limited options passed on by the House.

Creative Commons

Louisiana’s Democratic governor is revving his engines,  responding to Republicans revving theirs.

“It is time to stop living in Fantasyland. It is time to stop pretending things are better than they are,” Governor John Bel Edwards says in response to statements made by Republican lawmakers as well as the state Republican Party.

Last week, Republican Senator Jack Donahue, the former chair of the Senate Finance committee, intimated the budget shortfall is fiction since the revenue estimating conference has yet to recognize it.

“Right now, it doesn’t exist,” he said during a briefing on the current budget situation.

Sue Lincoln

The Senate Finance Committee met Thursday to get an update on the state budget crisis.

“It’s almost all minus signs,” Legislative Fiscal Analyst Greg Albrecht told lawmakers, with a sigh.

Senate Finance Chairman Eric LaFleur asked for details on how this happened, and Albrecht ran it down.

healthcare.gov

“How many people would be eligible in Louisiana?” Senate Finance Committee chairman Jack Donahue asked state health officials Monday.

More than half a million was the response.

“We would say that’s probably worst-case scenario,” DHH Undersecretary Jeff Reynolds added.

But there was more, as the committee was reminded the federal government is reducing Louisiana’s total funding for indigent care, beginning in January 2018.

Both the House and Senate worked over the weekend. Yet even Revenue Secretary Tim Barfield – the governor’s point man on tax increases and tax offsets -- notes the two chambers do not appear to be working together.

“There’s a lot of people posturing and a lot of politics right now,” Barfield observes, “So I don’t know what will happen in the end.”

The rift centers on the SAVE plan, creating a college fee that students won’t pay, offset by tax credits paid to higher education. After House Ways and Means killed the bill last week, its author, Senate Finance chair Jack Donahue, resurrected it. He did so by amending the language from his SB 284 onto three other tax bills, each authored by House Ways and Means chairman Joel Robideaux.

State lawmakers refused to approve part of the Jindal administration’s plan for balancing the current budget Friday, making it clear they’re fed up with sweeps of dedicated funds.

“Somebody, sooner or later, has got to stand up and say we’ve got to stop this,” Sen. Robert Adley of Benton remonstrated with the Joint Budget Committee and representatives of the Division of Administration.

Adley, a Republican, chairs the Senate Transportation Committee, and he took great issue with part of the budget-balancing plan to grab $6-million from gasoline taxes — which are dedicated to building and maintaining roads — and shuffle that money to State Police.

“It it’s not broken, let’s don’t try to fix it,” Senator Francis Thompson of Delhi summed up the sentiment of a majority of the Senate regarding TOPS.

TOPS isn’t broken, but many lawmakers see curbing the cost of the college scholarship program as part of the fix for the state budget. A measure that would have saved an estimated $24-million per year, by raising the standards for TOPS was argued on the Senate floor Monday.

Raising the TOPS Bar

May 12, 2014

Every year, lawmakers look at the climbing cost of TOPS--$217-million this year, $235-million next year—and then start looking for ways to rein in the runaway expense. Dozens of bills are filed, and all usually die in committee.

Of the 20 TOPS bills filed for the current session, one has broken out of the usual pattern. SB 520, by Mandeville Senator Jack Donahue, is being heard by the full Senate today.