Reports have surfaced recently on the subject of state highway funding proposals, and as I prepare to leave office I feel the need to respond to this issue.
Let me state emphatically that investment in Louisiana’s transportation infrastructure has always been a priority of my administration – as evidenced by the legislature’s approval this year of my proposal for the largest single investment in Louisiana roads. Over $600 million in additional state funding was appropriated for the state’s priority road and port construction projects which included funds for I-49 North and South.
We are now on track to complete the state infrastructure TIMED project 20 years early.
Proposals to redirect recurring sales tax revenue, anticipated to be $450 million per year, to road projects will result in the loss of state funding for critical recurring state services. Higher Education and Health Care rely mainly on discretionary state funding and have little statutory protection from cuts. These critical areas would bear the brunt of such reduced revenue to the state general fund.
For instance, a state general fund cut of $100 million to health care which receives almost 70 percent in matching federal funds would result in a total loss of over $340 million.
Even if Higher Education and Health Care were exempt from cuts, the funding to all remaining unprotected state general fund services, including public safety and correctional services, would have to be cut by nearly 50 percent to make up $450 million in reduced revenue.
I believe prudent state budget management demands that road investments be balanced with other critical state needs. I am proud that during my administration higher education received the largest investment in the history of this state.
We also provided historic funding for health care to create medical homes for the uninsured, provide more children with health insurance, expand mental health services and offer more long term care options for the elderly and those with disabilities.
One-time surplus funds enable the state to make critical investments in infrastructure. With reports forecasting the state may have another $1 billion in surplus funds this year, I urge the next administration and legislature to make roads a priority with that funding.
For this state to achieve economic prosperity and compete in the global economy, our citizens must be well-educated and healthy. We simply cannot afford to retreat from historic commitments to higher education and health care. The future of our state depends on an appropriate balance of resources.