LSU’s Manship School of Mass Communication Launches Solve The Budget Tool With The Advocate

March 2, 2018
Solve the budget logo with man driving over "fiscal cliff
Baton Rouge, LA – Everyone in Louisiana has a chance to eliminate the state’s $1 billion budget gap — and avoid a dreaded fiscal cliff — by playing “Solve the Budget,” an online game that makes the state’s financial problems understandable. is a collaboration between the Reilly Center for Media & Public Affairs at LSU’s Manship School of Mass Communication and The Advocate. The goal of the game is to make the enormously complex state budget understandable to people who aren’t financial experts — and to tell legislators exactly which choices citizens would make if they were legislators voting in the special legislative session.

During the special legislative session, legislators are working to find ways to raise enough revenue to cover the state’s services. If lawmakers are not able to find enough money during the special session to cover Louisiana’s costs, they must decide which services to cut during Louisiana’s regular legislative session which begins March 12. allows Louisianans to try to close the budget gap and avoid a fiscal cliff by answering “yes” or “no” to 41 questions about taxes and spending which lawmakers will also address, including whether to:

  • Keep the fifth penny of sales tax, which was temporarily imposed two years ago to patch budget holes. Based on whether users choose to keep or lose the fifth penny of sales tax, they could narrow or widen the budget gap by $969 million.
  • Maintain the first pay raise for state workers in about a decade. Based on whether users keep or lose the pay increase, they could narrow or widen the budget gap by $36.1 million.
  • Cut sales taxes and remove some exemptions. Based on whether users keep or lose existing sales taxes and exemptions, they could narrow or widen the budget gap by $300 million.

“At the Manship School, public service is one of our top priorities. Solve the Budget breaks down Louisiana’s complex budget system to help people better understand the state’s finances and engage their legislators on topics that are important to them,” Jerry Ceppos, dean of the Manship School, said.

In its second year, Solve the Budget provides the option to learn more about most tax and budget items via a brief “Learn More” backgrounder. It also shows users real-time progress on how well they are balancing the budget — widening or closing the gap — each time they answer a question. Last year, more than 5,500 people played the game.

“Solve the Budget has been so popular because it allows people to play governor for a day and make their own decisions about which of Louisiana’s services are most important to them,” Peter Kovacs, The Advocate’s editor, said.

The event is hosted by the Reilly Center for Media & Public Affairs, an integral part of LSU's Manship School of Mass Communication. The Reilly Center’s mission is to generate thoughtful programs, dialogue and research about mass communication and its many faceted relationships with social, economic and political issues.

Funding for Solve the Budget comes from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. This tool was also made possible by the Public Affairs Research Council of Louisiana, Ashley Clayton with LSU’s School of Education, the Manship School ‘s Switzer Chair on Media Literacy held by Leonard Apcar and The Advocate. Cartoonist Walt Handelsman of The Advocate created the original art for this project.

See if you can solve Louisiana’s budget:

For more information, contact