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Jindal administration makes cuts to La. agencies

Melinda Deslatte, Associated Press

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) -- Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal's chief financial adviser on Friday announced a mix of cuts, one-time patches and hiring-freeze savings to close a nearly $166 million budget gap, with dollars slashed from hospice care, juvenile justice treatment and domestic violence abuse programs.

Doctors and hospitals that care for the poor, disabled and elderly in the Medicaid program will be paid less for those services. Dental benefits to pregnant women through Medicaid will be shuttered. Money for state parks maintenance is being reduced.

Public colleges will be hit with a $22 million drop to state funding. The Jindal administration said the cut should not be a problem because the schools brought in more tuition than expected and saved millions with a hiring freeze.

Commissioner of Administration Kristy Nichols detailed the plans to lawmakers. The cuts and financing changes will rebalance the $25 billion budget for the fiscal year that ends June 30. It was the fifth year in a row that the state has had to close a midyear budget deficit.

This year's budget gap was tied to a $129 million cut in the state's income forecast, with less revenue expected from sales and individual income taxes. Also, the state's funding formula for public schools and the state's free college tuition program known as TOPS were short of money needed to cover all students, Nichols said.

As many as 63 state government workers are slated for layoffs under the plans.