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'Good News': No Mid-Year Cuts
L to R: Manfred Dix, Patrick Goldsmith, Greg Albrecht. Inset: Speaker Taylor Barras

Gov. John Bel Edwards was pleased with the results of Thursday’s Revenue Estimating Conference meeting, telling the panel, "For the first time in many years, you've actually upgraded our forecast for current year and for next year. Let’s just hope we’re accurate on that."

"It is OPB's proposal to increase the official forecast of the State General Fund for fiscal year 18 by close to $153 million," Manfred Dix, with the Office of Planning and Budget announced, as he began going through the revenue projections.

"The general sales tax is coming in fairly well," he explained. "We are about four-and-a-half percent higher than the same time last year."

But while oil prices are increasing slightly, the total income from mineral revenues isn't moving up.

"I don't know if Louisiana is going out of the oil production business, but we are basically almost a million barrels below FY '16," Dix said.

Greg Albrecht with the Legislative Fiscal Office concurred with that assessment, saying, "It's not a price problem for us anymore — it's a production problem."

The main problem, both say, is lack of broad-spectrum job growth.

"Everybody else except construction," Dix said, adding, "Actually, Louisiana has stagnant employment growth."

"Construction's one of the drivers," Albrecht agreed. "But other than that, it's leisure and hospitality. Even though that's a lot of jobs, it's the lowest-paid sector."

Commissioner of Administration Jay Dardenne said he's pleased to see state revenues are increasing, even if it's just marginally.

"That's the good news — that it looks like we're not going to have to have mid-year cuts this year," Dardenne stated. "But we very much must temper any enthusiasm by the reality that we are barreling toward the cliff that we're all going to hurtle off, with no parachutes."