- Associated Press - Tuesday, April 19, 2016

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) - Budget cuts were on the minds of many callers seeking to speak with Gov. John Bel Edwards on Tuesday as he launched his monthly radio call-in show.

People calling the “Ask the Governor” show wanted to shield arts programs, the TOPS free college tuition program and services for people with disabilities from budget reductions.

The Democratic governor replied to callers from across the state that he doesn’t want to make such cuts but the state is facing a $750 million shortfall in the budget year that begins July 1. He said he hopes lawmakers will agree to raise revenue in a June special session to stave off the slashing.

“Simply put, there’s just not enough money to fund what we all believe to be important programs and priorities,” Edwards told one caller worried about TOPS. He told the caller he expects to fully fund TOPS after the summer special session.

A New Orleans woman asked Edwards about a proposal to triple the wait time for women seeking an abortion to 72 hours. The House-approved bill has the governor’s support.

“I am pro-life,” Edwards said. “I didn’t run as anything other than pro-life, and that’s the way I’m going to act as governor.”

A caller from Alexandria wanted to talk about his attempt to get a presidential pardon. Edwards said he didn’t expect to have much influence in the decision-making. A woman from Slidell sought support for flood protection improvements in her area. The governor replied that he’d look at the issue.

In response to a Metairie resident, Edwards said a recent sales tax increase had “unintended impacts” like levying taxes on school lunches and high school sporting events.

“I do believe that’s going to get cleaned up,” the governor said.

When one New Orleans caller asked whether former Gov. Bobby Jindal should have to pay the state “damages” for helping to create the state’s budget problems, Edwards laughed and replied: “I don’t think I’m going to touch that one.”

Edwards’ show will air on radio stations statewide during the third week of each month.

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Follow Melinda Deslatte on Twitter at https://twitter.com/melindadeslatte

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