Louisiana residents will have the chance to vote on 14 state constitutional amendments on the Nov. 4 ballot, two of which may put higher education on the back burner.
According to the Public Affairs Research Council of Louisiana Guide to the 2014 Constitutional Amendments, amendments one and two will reduce the state’s budget flexibility, putting higher education at risk of budget reductions because of the state’s limited discretionary spending authority.
Executive vice president of the Louisiana Hospital Association Sean Prados said the amendments specify where certain amounts of money can be used.
“There is a general misconception that this is taking money from other parts of the budget,” Prados said. “The constitutional amendment is actually creating more money for healthcare services.”
Prados said the amendments would free up opportunities for other areas in the budget such as higher education.
He added healthcare and higher education are not protected from budget cuts because of their status as statutory dedications instead of constitutional dedications.
Political science senior Grace Reinke said the lack of protection for higher education concerns her.
“If you’re part of a working class family, pretty soon it’s going to be impossible to go to college if the state can’t support the universities,” Reinke said.
She said she believes education should be accessible to everyone and the burden falls on the government to maintain college accessibility.
Prados said healthcare relies on a healthy higher education system. The healthcare industry has an interest in higher education because the majority of its work force must go through higher education.
Amendment one applies to health care providers such as nursing homes, pharmacists, and intermediate care facilities for the mentally disabled, Prados said.
According to PAR’s guide, amendment one would set a base rate paid by the
government to the health care providers who, in part, pay a fee.
Prados said the maximum rate allows the federal government to match providers’ $0.38 to make a dollar.
Amendment two would set a parameter for funding hospital services in the future.
Prados said about 40 other states use a similar financing mechanism for hospitals.
The only way to protect the money is through a constitutional amendment, according to Prados.
“We don’t want the state to be able to use the money that we’re helping generate for other needs or their other funding priorities,” Prados said. “We want to make sure this stays in health care.”
Both of these amendments are allowing private providers to help fund the Medicaid program. They also protect the funds for health care services for the Medicaid population, Prados said.
“It’s making sure that the money that’s being used to fund the Medicaid program by private providers goes for what it was intended to do,” Prados said.