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Story Archives: Budgetary priorities in Louisiana
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|Budgetary priorities in Louisiana|
The Louisiana State University System must trim its budget for the 2009-10 fiscal year by some $102 million in light of budget cuts Gov. Bobby Jindal announced recently.
Jindal's proposed cuts represent about 15 percent of the state's appropriations to LSU campuses, which include the "flagship" campus at Baton Rouge.
Michael Martin, chancellor of the Baton Rouge campus, said last week that at least 400 employees would lose their jobs. Scholarships for students would be cut, too, while some research institutions would be shut down.
LSU museums, student services and general campus upkeep will suffer as well, Martin said, because the academic core of the university must be protected.
We certainly are pleased Martin recognizes that academics at LSU must be protected first and foremost. Everything else is secondary, including athletics, though we would be remiss if we did not acknowledge that the LSU Athletic Department is self-sustaining.
It's sad, though, that a man of Martin's ability and character must deal with an environment such as the one he and his colleagues in higher education in Louisiana must work under during these trying economic times. In many ways, the pending gut wrenching higher education must endure represents how many Louisianians feel about education in general.
The last time a chancellor at LSU was handed the chore of slashing the university's budget his name was Bud Davis. Edwin Edwards was governor in those days, back in the early 1990s.
LSU students marched on the capitol back then to protest cuts EWE had announced. Edwards spoke; he said his hands were tied because budget cuts had to be made and the constitution only allowed the governor to cut higher education and health care.
Edwards is no longer on the scene.
It's Jindal's ball game now.
But Jindal faces some of the same problems Edwards faced in his third and fourth terms in office -- declining state revenues amid an atmosphere in which the people expect the government to serve as a cure-all for their problems.
One of the problems, though, is once again higher education in Louisiana will bear the brunt of some stiff cuts which the governor and the Legislature must enact to balance the state's budget.
While it is correct to say the state constitution dictates that a governor must hone in on higher education and health care when a governor must cut expenditures, one notable expert on Louisiana government, C.B. Forgotston, says the Legislature has the authority to reshuffle the budget, or set priorities, in which higher education and health care would not suffer at the expense of other budgetary items.
We do not know if Forgotston is completely correct or if members of the Legislature who say otherwise are correct in disagreeing with Forgotston's assessment.
Our gut feeling is Forgotston is the one who knows what he's talking about.
At the very least, the Legislature should entertain Forgotston's views on shaping the budget, especially if it meant higher education and health care would not take it nose when the Legislature adopts a budget for the 2009-10 fiscal year.
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