R. Reese Fuller

La. eyes chickens before they hatch

by R. Reese Fuller

President Barack Obama will soon sign the $787 billion economic stimulus bill into law, but state officials are looking at the numbers, trying to figure out where Louisiana fits into the plan. The Times-Picayune reports that some $4 billion in spending and tax cuts could come into Louisiana, but it's unclear what's going to go where.
State transportation officials are confident that the bill will provide $308 million in new federal money, which must be spent on projects that can get under way within 120 days. An additional $108 million in transportation financing will flow to local governments, with about $27 million of that going to the New Orleans area.

But health care and higher education officials were still trying to calculate how much money they will get, and whether the windfall will be enough to offset the $1.65 billion budget shortfall the state faces next year.
The Advocate reports that Louisiana's Department of Health and Hospitals "may steer clear of all the health-care money available in the federal economic package:"
Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals Secretary Alan Levine said the federal government has overestimated — $1.7 billion over the next 27 months — how much the state would receive.

A more accurate estimate is based on actual usage: $1.1 billion, Levine said.

“We are trying to be realistic about what we are really going to have available,” Levine said.