Democrats, Republicans blame each other for TOPS cut

Students were in for a rude awakening when the press warned, as the Louisiana legislature went into session, that TOPS might be either cut altogether or drastically reduced for the upcoming year. When the session ended, TOPS funding for the Spring 2017 semester was cut to 47 percent  of what was originally promised students.

“It’s a major inconvenience to so many kids either planning on going to college or already in it. It’s a deal-breaker for some. So many students saw TOPS as their opportunity for higher education and it’s been cut in half,” said junior business major Brad Luquette.

Students want to know what happened; they want to understand why they’re in a situation in which the state legislature took away something promised to them. Democrats and Republicans blame each other. But the primary cause is evidence to condemn both sides’ ability to cooperate and put the people they represent first.

Although Democrats and Republicans point to the current local recession brought on by low oil prices as a factor, both are in agreement that the majority of the problem comes from elsewhere.

Democrats, as evidenced by statements made by the the governor, cite reckless tax cuts by the Jindal administration as a leading cause. “[Reckless] use of one-time money, excessive fund sweeps, tax exemptions and credits that are more generous than we can afford…bring us to the unfortunate situation that all of us will face in the coming year”.

On the other side of the political aisle, Republican Congressmen Conrad Appel blamed the governor for making the TOPS funding a political matter. “The governor used TOPS as a wedge issue to try and force Republicans to vote for massive tax increases…It’s politics, and it’s sad that students get hurt.”

Why is education always getting the short end of the stick? Does Louisiana not believe education is a priority? The governor has said, “higher education and health care are the only two large areas of the budget expenditures with no constitutional or statutory protection from the budget axe.”

Why are these two budget areas the only ones that can be cut back? Turns out it’s because of things called statutory dedications, funds that are constitutionally bound to be spent on what they were signed into law to be spent on. Over $3 billion a year is allocated to these statutory dedications.

That’s enough money per year to make up for the budget shortfalls nearly twice over. Typically, each statutory dedication is typically either a congressman’s pet project, or funds that benefit an extremely select group of citizens.

State Representative Conrad Appel told Driftwood “…TOPS funding has our full priority…We had passed an amendment bill that mandated 33.3 percent of all new money that comes into the treasury would go towards TOPS. The governor vetoed it. My suggestion is that you and your parents contact the governor and make it known that TOPS hostage hurts Louisiana’s future.”

Congressmen Appel said although he was disheartened by the cutbacks to TOPS,  “Louisiana has been substantially more generous than almost any other state when it comes to this form of scholarship and even with the changes we continue to do so.”