Envious is not a word that one would use to describe the current state of being for elected officials sitting in the capitol in the Red Stick.
Gov. John Bel Edwards came out the gate swinging last year regarding the mis-management of funds by previous governor Bobby Jindal, which created a future deficit.
Edwards, a democrat who rode a wave of anti-David Vitter (a republican) into the governor’s mansion, has been behind the 8-ball since arriving on January 1 of 2016. He quickly came under fire, not for the budgetary remarks but for how to handle them.
Unfortunately for most Louisianians, the legislature had no choice but to go along with the proposed one-cent increase to sales taxes, and cuts to the few services that could be reduced outside of constitutional appropriations.
This year, however, house republicans are not going to budge, and many of the potential republican candidates for governor are licking their lips.
After Edwards took a huge political blow via the dismantling of his proposed gross receipts tax - which couldn’t pass committee - the governor decided to toss the ball into the republican’s court.
So, the republicans turned around and chopped $230 million out of the Louisiana Department of Hospitals budget, as well as freezing salaries for state workers - establishing a new revenue target of $930 million for the state, which is roughly $630 million less than Edwards’ proposed budget.
The bill will still have to pass a vote, but with a majority republican house it should come as no surprise that the bill is viewed favorably by those in control.
Meanwhile, democrats aren’t too happy about the cuts to the state’s hospital system, mostly due to a large portion of their constituency being reliant on those health care facilities.
Some of their arguments may have merit in the future, as researchers look to determine how many federal matching dollars could be lost due to the cuts.
And yet, Edwards continues to push the legislature to consider “new forms of revenue.” That’s a hard sell considering Louisiana’s ranking as worst for taxation - as well as health and education.
Louisiana is also in the bottom 10% of the nation in regard to median income.
How, then, does the governor propose to push increased taxes, considering the current - and past - mismanagement of funds and the fact that most Louisianians just don’t have the cash? Especially those individuals who are reliant on public health systems.
This becomes the Catch-22 for - and the reason not to be envious of - the state’s legislators. The wide variety of citizens that live in this state make for difficult policy decisions, but with the huge amount of constitutional appropriations - over 90% of the budget - lawmakers have very little choice but to cut from areas that couldn’t secure year-over-year funding.
So, Tuesday morning Rep. Neil Abramson (D-New Orleans) introduced a bill that would establish a set of dates for a constitutional convention.
The goal of said gathering would be to bust the current status quo regarding Louisiana’s budget. As mentioned, over 90% of the current budget is locked up in constitutionally required appropriations, leaving very little room for budget adjustments.
Considering Louisiana’s budget and GDP are based on the price of oil, which varies wildly, having that little room to work is sure to cause problems.
Not to mention increasing taxes on a state which is already encumbered by a poor tax, education, and health system makes little-to-no sense.
Don’t forget failing infrastructure, and the need to offer large tax breaks to entice industry and corporations to locate here.
No more cake and eating it, too, no more kicking the can down the road.
Its time for Louisiana to establish a responsible, responsive budget. There are a wide variety of cultures in this state, but monetary expenditures don’t have to favor one political side or the other, they can do both.