Any of you who watch a small sampling of TV commercials know the words “new and improved” seldom pack the punch the manufacturer promises us.
Lawmakers promised a “new and improved” approach in their solution to budgetary issues when they headed into the 2017 session. Less than a month into the run, the approach seems as convincing as the laundry detergent brand which promises better results.
It came as little surprise that Gov. John Bel Edwards’ Corporate Activity Tax would fizzle, considering the uncertainty of its effect on the Louisiana business climate. It seemed too risky to most Republicans and even a share of his fellow Democrats.
Meanwhile, a plan to fix the state budgetary woes remains nonexistent – except for cuts to the same programs.
Many want to “save face” a year after they voted for the first time to cut funding for the Taylor Opportunity Program Scholarship, which awards free tuition to all high school students with a grade point average of 2.5 or higher.
Lawmakers approved cuts to the one-time sacred cow during the final hours of the special session which followed the regular session in June. It put a bad taste in mouths of residents and their children, who rightfully felt the state pulled the rug from under them.
State Rep. Frank Foil, R-Baton Rouge, unveiled a plan Monday to put himself and other lawmakers back in the good graces of disgruntled college students and their parents.
He gained approval on party-line vote in the House Appropriations Committee to recommend $81 million in cuts to the state Department of Health, along with a freeze on pay raises for state employees.
Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?
Foil remained steadfast in his recommendation, despite questions from Democratic lawmakers who fear the cuts could pose a drastic effect on services, including mental health, which has been butchered over the last decade.
It’s without question that TOPS recipients should receive what the state promised them. But is it justifiable for the state to rob Peter to pay Paul?
Lawmakers have once again turned to healthcare – and will likely target education once again – to eke out some semblance of a balanced budget.
At the same time, many legislators believe a hike to the gasoline/diesel tax would put an extra strain on motorists, all the while bridges and roads continue to fall into disrepair.
A reluctance to push forward on the gasoline tax hike – and the lack of an alternative – promise very little in the line of Louisiana roads and bridges, which earned a D-plus from Louisiana civil engineers.
We’ve seen nothing in the form of a new approach to a solution for the state’s budgetary woes. It seems almost like clockwork that many lawmakers go into a session with a willingness to “think outside the box”, but quickly shy away from it and resort to the same approach.
We likely won’t see anything of substance until the last days – possibly the final hours – of the session, which ends June 8.
Most likely, the final result will resemble that of the most recent session – and the one before that, and so on.
The approach Gov. Edwards offered drew skepticism from both sides of the aisle, but we’ve seen nothing yet that offers a viable alternative.
It means once more the state will go into the next year with a projected deficit and probably face mid-year cuts.
“New and improved” usually amounts to plenty of hype and very little substance – a common bond between the current legislative session and a box of detergent.