John Bel Edwards has threatened to cut TOPS unless the Legislature comes back in a special session this summer to raise taxes. The Legislature had to come up with a contigency plan to deal with the potential crisis. Naturally the Louisiana Senate passed the most awful option available.
From the Times-Picayune:
The Louisiana Senate has unanimously backed a plan to retain a portion of the TOPS college scholarship for all recipients in the event that funding for the program is cut for the next school year.
Senate Bill 470 calls for every student who qualifies for TOPS under the current rules to continue to get a portion of the scholarship, even if it can’t be totally funded. This represents an alternative to the way a TOPS shortfall would be handled under the current state law — by raising the ACT cutoff score needed for the scholarship.
Gov. John Bel Edwards has said he supports the alternative plan proposed by the Senate for dealing with a TOPS funding cut. The proposal now heads to the Louisiana House for consideration.
What the bill does is whack those who already have TOPS scholarships and reduce future awards to just around 1/3 of their current levels. The alternative under state law is to raise ACT scores from 20 to 26 because God forbid we should actually prioritize keeping the best minds in Louisiana.
The reason why many in State Senate balked at sticking with current state law is because 33,000 students would not get TOPS that would otherwise receive it. The Senate’s bill also makes it easier for John Bel to raise taxes because he can hold a very popular state program hostage.
Instead of threatening to turn off the dialysis machines at Charity Hospital, the Legislature now just threatens to cut TOPS and the universities. This is government by hostage taking like in the bad ol’ days of Edwin Edwards. The only way John Bel Edwards will release the hostages is if he gets his tax increases.
Everyone who voted for SB 470, which is the entire Senate, just voted for tax increases. The amount and types of tax hikes will be determined this summer.