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Dardenne: “We’ve Got to Talk About the Reality”

Sue Lincoln

“Come July 1, we are all tumbling off the cliff together,” Louisiana Commissioner of Administration Jay Dardenne warned the Baton Rouge Rotary Club.

One day after Governor John Bel Edwards hosted a “constructive and lengthy” meeting with 21 business executives from around the state, Dardenne told the business people at Wednesday’s luncheon he knows what they have been hearing: government is too large and needs to be cut down to size.

“We’ve made cuts,” he said. “In the year and a half or so we’ve been there, we’ve cut at least $450-million.”

And he gave an example: “This won’t let you sleep very comfortably at night, but at Angola, 173 inmates are guarded by two people.”

Dardenne says he knows no one likes hearing the proverbial “doomsday scenarios”, but, “the reality is, we’ve got to talk about the reality.”

And that reality is that more than a billion dollars in revenue is going away, as so-called “temporary taxes” expire.

“The budget that I’ll present in February -- as I’m required to do -- will be balanced: a budget that will cut a billion dollars.”

He says at a minimum, that will require across-the-board cuts of at least twenty percent.

“If we don’t want to disproportionally cut Corrections and start turning prisoners loose; if we don’t want to cut higher education because we’ve said it’s a priority and it’s already going in the wrong direction; if we don’t want to dramatically cut health care because we’ve got to take care of people of the state; if we favor them we’re going to be looking at cuts of 50 to 60% for other areas of the state budget.”

Dardenne encouraged the business community to let their voices be heard.

“You need to weigh in. If you don’t think you want any more taxes in Louisiana, tell your legislator,” he said. “But also tell them where you want to cut, or tell them that they have an obligation to say what they don’t want to fund.”