The LSU AgCenter is facing as much as a $10 million budget cut, on top of a $20 million erosion in funding since 2008, says William B. Richardson, Vice President for Agriculture and Chalkley Family Endowed Chair and Dean of College of Agriculture, Baton Rouge.
Richardson, in a letter to AgCenter supporters and stakeholders, explained that the Louisiana State Legislature is facing a $650 million budget shortfall.
“The budget, as it stands now, includes more than $96 million in state general fund cuts to higher education, along with a 30 percent reduction in TOPS (Taylor Opportunity Program for Students) funding,” Richardson said. “Under this scenario, the AgCenter budget could be cut by more than $10 million. The AgCenter has already experienced more than $20 million in reductions, or 18 percent, since July of 2008. A reduction of this magnitude would have widespread negative impact on the research and Extension programs across the state.”
He explained that a state operating budget was moved to the Senate floor for approval last week.
“Members of the Senate finance committee amended the budget bill to show the devastating impact the fiscal cliff will have on state government if additional revenue is not generated. The chairman of the finance committee testified this is a ‘pretend budget,’ meaning it is only intended to show this serious potential impact. However, the implications are very real.”
Richardson says Commissioner of Administration Jay Dardenne testified in committee that reductions of this magnitude would devastate statewide AgCenter programs. Those cuts are likely, Dardenne said, “if the Legislature does not renew sales taxes or increase other revenue-generating measures.”
A second special session likely will be convened immediately after the current session ends to address the renewal of a sales tax to fill the shortfall, which is a source of “much controversy among legislators. “We do not know what will actually be palatable when a final vote comes,” Richardson added. He urges legislators to find “sensible solutions.”
In the meantime, he asks AgCenter supporters to contact legislators and encourage them to find ways to make up the budget shortfall without drastic cuts to higher education and AgCenter funding.
Richardson urges supporters to contact State Senator and Representative to:
1. Educate them on the value of our programs to them and their communities.
2. Explain that further budget reductions will cause the elimination of parish-based Extension services, termination of valuable research initiatives, closure of research stations and reduction in teaching programs.
3. Stress the importance of quickly finding solutions to resolve the budget issue.
“Your legislator's contact information can be located at this link https://bit.ly/1lRGiPT
“We encourage you to contact your legislators to discuss sensible solutions to address the nearly $650 million shortfall they are trying to fill. Thank you for showing support for your LSU AgCenter (https://bit.ly/2bn4dvT),” Richardson said.