LSU AgCenter could face budget cuts

LSU AgCenter could face budget cuts
(Source: Maranda Whittington/KPLC)

LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC) - It's crunch time for Louisiana lawmakers.

Tuesday they begin a second special session to figure out the state's budget mess. The end of some temporary taxes means the state will face an estimated $650 million deficit when the new fiscal year begins July 1st.

During the regular session lawmakers could only make cuts to balance the budget, but in the special session tax hikes are back in play.

Governor John Bel Edwards wants increased sales taxes to bridge the budget gap, but if lawmakers don't agree to tax hikes state funding would be slashed.

One agency that could be hit hard would be the LSU AgCenter.

The LSU AgCenter services over 1500 students through the 4-H program, works with local farmers and provides resources to those in the agriculture field. Our Calcasieu Parish county agent says if those budget cuts were approved, research stations and even jobs would have to be cut.

For Heather Goss and Patrick Cormier, the 4-H program is something they've been a part of for most of their lives, but it's led them down different paths.

"I started in my local club, and I eventually worked my way up into becoming a junior leader on the parish level," said student Heather Goss.

"I wasn't really involved with agriculture in my 4-H experience," said student Patrick Cormier. "I was much more involved with the leadership, citizenship focus of the program, and a lot of STEM."

But just a week ago worry set in after the LSU AgCenter was set to face a $10 million cut.

"It's really scary knowing that potentially my cousins or my family members and other people just in Calcasieu Parish…other youth wouldn't get the opportunities that I've been provided," said Goss.

County agent for Calcasieu Parish Jimmy Meaux says the LSU AgCenter has experienced budget cuts in the past, eliminating many research centers across the state, and he believes jobs would've been next.

"Worst case scenario if things happened like they were in the budget….we're looking at staff probably as the next thing because I think they've trimmed as much from other areas in the budget," said Meaux.

As the regular legislative session ended, that large cut to the center was deferred after Governor John Bel Edwards announced his veto of the proposed budget.

It means lawmakers will create a new budget in the special session, with an opportunity to raise revenue.

Goss hopes lawmakers consider the LSU AgCenter, and all it provides when they discuss cuts to higher education.

"I think whenever people think of AG and LSU AG, they think of farming and ranching, and you kind of think, well that doesn't really affect me, that's not part of my life, but you know if you eat, you wear clothes, you're a part of agriculture and it plays a part in your life," said Goss.

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