Here are eight additional ways to balance the state budget without destroying health care and higher education:
• Abolish the state’s three separate systems of higher education and place all universities (excluding community colleges) under the Board of Regents. Direct the Board of Regents to eliminate wasteful duplicate programs, assign each university a role, scope and mission (with LSU designed as the state’s flagship university), and implement universal uniform transfer of course credits from community colleges to four-year colleges and among four-year colleges. Annual savings: $75 million
• Instead of selling state property in a bad economy, when prices are low, in order to generate one-time revenue, enter into joint ventures with private developers, chosen by competitive bid, to develop underutilized state land into income-producing assets, with the recurring revenues shared by the state and the private developers. Annual savings (revenue): $50 million
• Have the Legislative Auditor audit per-patient costs, employees per occupied bed and medical supplies procurement and management at Louisiana’s Charity Hospitals, and implement the recommendations. A similar 2009 audit by Alvarez & Marsal of Big Charity in New Orleans found $72 million of annual savings. Annual savings for the other 9 hospitals: $100 million
• Direct that annual spending per secure commitment in the Louisiana Office of Juvenile Justice be equal to the Southern average. Louisiana has 508 juveniles in secure facilities. We spend $115,000 annually per youth, according to the House Appropriations Committee budget analyst. (The cost is $141,000 annually, according to the Justice Policy Institute.) Florida spends $70,000, Alabama $85,000 and Arkansas $34,000. Annual savings: $26 million
• As a condition of their contracts, require all state vendors and contractors to receive a tax clearance from the Department of Revenue certifying that their state taxes have been paid, and authorize the state to offset any future tax liabilities against contract payments owed the vendor or contractor. Annual savings: $15 million
• Establish cooperative agreements with Mississippi and Arkansas to purchase supplies in bulk and share heavy equipment, specialized vehicles, aircraft, warehouse space, call centers, collection operations, licensing functions, back office operations and agricultural, fishery and nursery operations, similar to the Wisconsin-Minnesota Collaboration Project. Annual savings: $10 million
• Competitively bid more state contracts for maintenance of state-owned computer hardware and software. State law currently allows agencies to award these maintenance contracts, without competitive bid, to the companies (like Hewlett-Packard, IBM, etc.) from which the agency originally purchased the hardware or software (called the “Original Equipment Manufacturer”) if the agency deems the hardware or software to be “mission-critical.” Annual savings: $5 million
• Begin appropriating only 97 percent of revenue estimates to minimize mid-year budget cuts and avoid disruption of agency budgets.
Total savings: $281 million
Louisiana doesn’t need to raise taxes. We just need to manage our money better.