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Layoffs, privatization and increased employee costs in state budget

For the fourth year in a row, Gov. Bobby Jindal proposes a state budget that freezes public education’s Minimum Foundation Program funding at the 2008-09 level.

In an effort to close a looming $895 million budget gap, the governor also plans to privatize and consolidate prisons, eliminate more than 6,000 state jobs, cut funding for health care and raise retirement costs for state employees.

While the governor says that his $25.5 billion state budget will not cut funding for higher education, that pledge depends on higher tuition for students and increases retirement costs for college and university employees.

In a memo to LSU system higher-ups, system President John Lombardi explained what he termed the Jindal administration’s “good treatment” of higher education, which has suffered hundreds of millions of dollars in cuts in recent years.

In exchange for that good treatment, Lombardi wrote, the governor expects higher education officials to “avoid negative messages about higher ed funding” and to recognize that the additional $100 million that employees will have to pay into their retirement plans is good for colleges and universities.

Areas outside of education will be hit hard to absorb the proposed cuts.

If the governor’s budget is approved, employee contributions to the Louisiana State Employees’ Retirement System will increase by three percentage points, which will equate to a cut in take-home pay.

Division of Administration Commissioner Paul Rainwater said that no changes are proposed for the Teachers Retirement System of Louisiana this year because the Jindal administration plans so many other public education “reforms.”

Some of the most governor’s controversial plans that failed last year are back in this year’s budget proposal. Once again, Jindal has plans to sell the Avoyelles Correctional Center to a private company. He also wants to fire state employees from the Office of Group Benefits and hire a private management company to manage the public employee health plan.