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|Jindal, lawmakers announce $341 million in budget cuts|
BATON ROUGE – Gov. Bobby Jindal was joined by legislative leaders Tuesday in releasing the administration's cost-savings plan for $341 million in spending cuts to the state's 2009 fiscal year budget in light of a revenue shortfall.
"It is of course not news to anyone that our nation is currently undergoing the most difficult economic situation in several generations, and we know no state is immune to this national economic downturn," Jindal said in a prepared statement. "When governments face economic shortfalls, there are only three possible solutions: go into debt, raise taxes, or tighten our belt and cut spending. When Washington faces this problem, they usually make the wrong choice, preferring to first incur mountains of debt, then to raise taxes, and rarely do they ever cut spending in any meaningful way."
"On my watch in Louisiana, we will do it in just the opposite manner," Jindal added.
"When a small business or a family in Louisiana faces economic difficulty, they are forced to find ways to cut spending," Jindal continued. "They cannot simply send their neighbors a bill or print more money; they have to tighten their belts. In my view, that is the responsible course for a government to take as well.
"Some think the job of government is simply to collect taxes and spend money. I do not subscribe to this view. I believe government has to be innovative and must constantly be in search of better ways to provide quality service in a more efficient manner. We will continue to pursue policies to move Louisiana forward while we tighten our belts in government and ensure we are living within our means."
Jindal added that "eliminating the $341 million deficit for FY 09 is a first step in an effort to right-size state government, to maximize efficiencies, to eliminate non-essential expenditures, and to begin identifying savings that can be sustained in preparation for the much larger projected shortfall in FY 10."
Jindal was referring to an anticipated $2 billion budget deficit the state is facing in the 2009-10 fiscal year, which begins July 1.
"The governor's plan is a solid approach to tackling non-essential spending and increasing government efficiency, and it should provide a strong foundation for the deeper reductions we will need to make next year," said Speaker of the House Jim Tucker, commenting on the $341 million in cuts Jindal and legislative leaders announced Tuesday.
Sen. Mike Michot said, "The big story of the day is the admirable job the governor has done, strategically targeting savings across departments, sparing many Medicaid providers from rate cuts, focusing on new and recently created programs that haven't yet been implemented, and utilizing the flexibility offered by reducing statutory dedications to soften the blow to health care and higher education. Too often, health care and higher education sustain the brunt of a budget blow because they are unprotected in law, but the governor's plan finds savings in nearly every unit of the state budget, and even opens up statutorily dedicated funding to curb the impact on health care and higher education."
To eliminate the $341 million deficit, departments were asked to identify efficiencies and cost-saving measures. For many departments, these savings came as a result of freezing operational expenses in travel, supplies, acquisitions, operational services and professional services, and halting or delaying the implementation of certain new initiatives.
Other savings were achieved through reductions or eliminations in lower-performing programs. These were strategic and programmatic shifts that focused on streamlining government services and producing more efficiencies in operations. In short – the goal is to make government do more with less. In some areas of government, cost savings were achieved by stopping the creation or expansion of new programs. State government has to be able to afford the programs we already have.
In addition to the savings achieved through the hiring freeze, savings in personnel costs associated with these cost-saving measures and targeted program eliminations in low-performing areas were achieved through the elimination of some vacant positions, as well as, in some instances, the elimination or the shifting of filled positions.