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Session call shows Blanco has caught jailhouse religion

“Jailhouse religion” runs rampant among the incarcerated, where many more prisoners than actually have done so claim they have reformed their ways, in order to obtain reduced sentences or privileges. As the election year 2007 looms, Gov. Kathleen Blanco in her special session call for the end of this year shows she has caught it in an attempt to make Louisiana voters forget that she often has passed on opportunities for lower taxes and sensible spending. (“Call” is in parentheses above because it is not official and may not even be constitutional in that form, when a formal call comes.)

Just to name some examples, about 18 months ago Blanco was all about raising taxes on health care consumers by creating an new tax on health care facilities that would have passed the cost through to consumers, instead of steering the state away from its bias on institutional care which on Medicaid reimbursements alone would save the state nearly $100 million a year. (Then, she quietly led for the repeal of this tax after the realities of it in the post-disaster environment sunk in.)

Another was concerning the $12 billion backlog in road repairs (despite a special tax levied almost 20 years ago to address this) which she now claims she’ll have addressed in the special session. But only months ago, even as she denies it, she tried to float an idea about slapping tolls on roads to fund this, in part because she has allowed very low-priority but politically well-connected capital spending going on in other areas such as funding horse barns and creating reservoirs that assist a select few in the state. Had she mandated sensible spending, the road backlog already would have been whittled by hundreds of millions, perhaps billions, of dollars by now.

In addition, she has had plenty of opportunities in the past to address the huge and growing unfunded accrued liability in the state’s retirement accounts, another session call. But every time she had the chance, she preferred spending operating funds on programs favoring the interests of certain individuals rather than tackle perhaps the biggest ticking time bomb the state faces.

And, the Blanco record is chock full of instances where she cared more about distributing benefits to a favored few than to the people of Louisiana. This year, she signed onto sweetheart deals for the politically-connected, increased prices at the pump for consumers (while creating an imperfect mechanism to prevent that), prevented a reduction in cable television prices for consumers, and supported perks for lawmakers until great public outcry got her to reluctantly cast a veto of them.

Does anybody seriously believe that if next year were not an election year and that Blanco’s approval ratings weren’t in the tank that she would not behave in the tax-and-spend manner she has in the past, bloating up the state budget? Her call contains good ideas and, if implemented properly, they will do more good for the state than the sum total of her contributions to date by far. But, informed voters next year will recognize the expediency and convenience of her conversion to supporting these ideas and would do better to support for governor genuine reformers such as Rep. Bobby Jindal or potentially any of a number of other candidates for Blanco’s job.

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