TOPS

bluepoint951 / Flickr.com / https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

The regular legislative session is at the halfway point, with issues like TOPS reform, gun control, and gambling expansion mostly dead, while new sexual harassment policies, tougher hazing laws, and medical marijuana expansion have received broad support. Political Analyst Bernie Pinsonat says the session has been bogged down by one issue.

 

 

The yearly attempt at altering TOPS hit a brick wall on the house floor, and Pinsonat says at this point legislators should just give up trying to change the universally popular program.

 

Road Travel America / Flickr.com / https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

The chairman of Senate Finance has no desire to approve the budget the House passed last Thursday. Ville Platte Senator Eric LaFleur says he can’t support a spending plan that would kick 46-thousand elderly and disabled people from nursing homes.

 

LaFleur says, "I will never vote for this budget. I will not allow for a thousand people to be thrown out into the streets. I'd be embarrassed, and I'm not even running again for office."

bluepoint951 / Flickr.com / https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

Governor John Bel Edwards says the proposed budget that was approved by the House is a non-starter, and if it reaches his desk, he’s not signing it. The budget maintains higher ed, and funds TOPS at 80 percent, but includes steep cuts to healthcare that could shutter public-private hospitals that care for the poor. Edwards says it’s a budget unworthy of the people of Louisiana

 

Edwards says, "The types of cuts that I just described to you do not happen in the state of Louisiana.The state is better than this. They deserve better than this."

Road Travel America / Flickr.com / https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

The House narrowly passed a budget that would fund TOPS at 80% and maintain higher ed funding, but would implement deep cuts in healthcare funding, potentially ending public-private partnership hospitals that care for the poor. House Appropriations Chairman Republican Cameron Henry says the state cannot afford to maintain its current healthcare spending.

 

Henry says, "The growth at which Medicaid is expanding is a rate we cannot attain. This is not a Republican issue or a Democratic issue; this is a math issue."

 

bluepoint951 / Flickr.com / https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

The House Appropriations Committee is expected to approve a budget today for next fiscal year that will contain 648-million dollars in cuts from the current fiscal year. When the budget process started, lawmakers had a nearly billion dollar budget deficit, but an increase in tax collections has led to a much smaller fiscal cliff. Appropriations Chairman Cameron Henry says his committee wants to use that newly recognized revenue for TOPS.

 

Road Travel America / Flickr.com / https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

The revenue shortfall the state is facing has declined from 994-million-dollars to 648-million-dollars, as a result of the state collecting more income taxes due to the federal tax overhaul. House Speaker Taylor Barras says the extra money would likely go for higher education and the TOPS program.

 

beltramistudios / Flickr.com / https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/

The number of eligible graduates in Louisiana achieving TOPS reaches an all time high. More than 19,200 senior high school students qualified for at least one scholarship, up from 18,373 in 2016. Superintendent for the Office of Student Opportunities Ken Bradford says there’s a new college high school option for students to give them a head start.

 

Bradford says that students taking a set series of courses are "eligible for a college focus diploma."

 

Road Travel America / Flickr.com / https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

A bill seeking to make major changes to TOPS faced opposition from LSU students. The Senate Education Committee defeated the measure to make TOPS a flat four-thousand dollar annual award and provide additional stipends for students who perform well on the ACT. LSU Student Body Vice President Rachel Campbell says the proposed legislation would force some LSU students to leave the state.

 

Antrell Williams / Flickr.com / https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/

Now that the special session concluded without a solution to fill a one-billion-dollar budget shortfall in July, TOPS funding could be cut by 80-percent. There are nearly 48-thousand TOPS students. Higher Education Commissioner Joe Rallo says many parents can’t afford to send their kids to college without some financial help. Those college prospects are looking elsewhere to get their education.

 

beltramistudios / Flickr.com / https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/

Springtime is acceptance letter season for most college bound high school students, and the state’s budget uncertainty is causing many to rethink whether they want to attend school in Louisiana. LSU president F. King Alexander is calling on legislators to find a budget solution that funds higher ed and TOPS by the end of the February special session.

 

Alexander says there was a noticeable impact the last time the state failed to properly fund TOPS in a timely manner.

 

Pages