Louisiana income forecast sets cautious tone amid COVID-19 uncertainty

State News

BATON ROUGE, La. (BRPROUD) — Louisiana lawmakers would have $228 million less to allocate in their next budget, based on a newly adopted income outlook that foresees a slower rebound from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The state’s four-member Revenue Estimating Conference agreed on a more conservative $9.6 billion general fund forecast Tuesday. The projection leaves proposed cuts likely in the annual budget plan Gov. John Bel Edwards’ office will hand legislators in about six weeks.

“The budget we’re going to present is going to have some significant cuts,” said Jay Dardenne, Edwards’ chief budget adviser and a member of the forecasting panel. “There’s no doubt about that.”

But despite adopting a more cautious outlook, the panel suggests Louisiana’s economic picture may brighten before the fiscal year starts July 1. On Tuesday, members added $292 million to the current year’s forecast, money lawmakers could use to offset cuts.

The committee also hinted that any future federal aid could patch holes. Congress’ initial CARES Act helped Louisiana thwart a roughly $1 billion crash last spring — and in the current fiscal year, which ends June 30. Dardenne hopes Capitol Hill hands the state a sequel.

“Whether it’s the ‘son of CARES,’ ‘daughter of CARES,’ ‘bride of CARES’ — whatever it may be — it will probably end up bringing some additional money,” Dardenne said. “It may enable us to soften some of the cuts that might otherwise have to be made.”

Congress has yet to launch debate on additional virus relief. The U.S. House and Senate will likely resume the talks once President-elect Joe Biden takes office Wednesday.

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