Think balancing Louisiana’s $23B state budget is easy? Give it a try!

The Louisiana Legislature returns to session April 10, with the primary objective of crafting a balanced state budget for the coming year and goal of providing more long-term stability.

Task forces, committees and various interest groups have held hearings and offered input. Gov. John Bel Edwards is expected to unveil his legislative agenda next week.

In the meantime, Greater New Orleans Inc., the regional chamber body, has unveiled a new website to let anybody develop their own taxing and spending priorities.

Visitors of can adjust how much of the state’s $23 billion budget goes to which agencies, as allowable by law. They can also test different tax scenarios. The game adjusts to show which interest: business, citizens or students are most upset by each of the decisions made.

State lawmakers last month wrapped a deficit-closing special session last month. It was the 15th mid-year budget shortfall in nine years.

Edwards, a Democrat, has asked lawmakers to use the coming session to address structural issues within the budget to provide stability. No consensus has been reached on how that will work. Republicans control the state House and Senate.

The GNO game’s balancing act is based on the revenue estimating conference’s most recent projections and the state spending levels as of November 2016 (the budget has twice been cut since then).

Per the rules of the game: Each player has 15 minutes to balance the budget and can close the shortfall by cutting expenses or by raising taxes. Those who need more time can call a four-minute “special session.” Whenever the shortfall goes too high, the animated pelican will start to bleed.

Final results can then be emailed to anyone, including state legislators.

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