State budget far from balanced

The Jindal administration has a ways to go to balance the current year’s $25.6 billion state budget, the Louisiana Senate’s chief budget advisor said Tuesday.

Sherry Phillips-Hymel said the state is already aware of a $28 million shortfall in the program that funds public schools as well as a $17. 6 million state funding gap in Medicaid, the government health insurance program for the poor.

In addition, Phillips-Hymel said something must be done to offset dollars that did not materialize as projected. A couple of revenue-raising measures approved near the end of last year’s session did not generate the expected dollars, she said. Phillips-Hymel did not specify which revenue measures came up short and by how much.

Phillips-Hymel said there’s also a projected $10.2 million shortfall in the program that pays local sheriffs to house state prisoners and a corrections probation and parole diversion program for substance abuse violators is coming up short $5 million.

“Now we are coming into session so much earlier we have four months to get through in the current fiscal year,” said Phillips-Hymel, referring to the June 30 end of the current budget year. “There’s more time for other things to pop up.”

“There’s still a lot of things we need to look at over the next four months … before we even get to next fiscal year,” Phillips-Hymel told a meeting of the Senate Finance Committee.