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LeBlanc cannot defend poor Blanco budget choices

So Louisiana Commissioner of Administration Jerry Luke LeBlanc challenged critics of the Blanco administration's financial decisions to supply a list of better ways to use state general revenue and surplus funds? Coming right up; he isn’t going to like being reminded of the Gov. Kathleen Blanco’s administrations shortcomings in this regard.

First, he says the huge increase in state spending – around $32 billion when everything is thrown in, more than double a decade ago – is skewed because a quarter of that is in federal funds related to disaster recovery spending. But that view misses the point that, on a comparative basis, state spending already was too high to begin with. And Blanco just made it worse, epitomized by spending, in a state whose population is declining, not only to continue to fund vacant state positions, but to give these “ghosts” pay raises and create almost 1,200 new jobs on top of them.

Second, he brushed aside criticism that the state budget contained tens of millions of dollars in local projects and/or ones of dubious statewide interest by asserting he has resisted this idea and tried to stop it. That’s hard to take seriously: if Blanco really wanted to stop those kinds of items from popping up, she would use her line-item veto them. The fact is, neither LeBlanc nor Blanco wanted to stop the practice because it serves their political and ideological interests.

Third, LeBlanc argued of a lack of perspective, that huge, even “historic” amounts had been budgeted by Blanco to address long-standing needs. Certainly $600 million against a $14 billion backlog in roads (a portion he did not define of which he dismissed as “the magic wish list”) is a lot and a record sum. But if Blanco were serious about these needs, she would have put into a place a mechanism to make sure the backlog was kept at a minimum. Instead, her administration argued against the likes of HB 722 which could have started sending annually at least $300 million a year for transportation needs.

The way that bill would have worked, it would have removed money going now into the general fund from transportation-related revenue sources, meaning there’s that much less to spend on recurring commitments. But considering that the state is overpaying about $100 million a year in long-term health care costs, refuses to reform indigent health care to make it more cost efficient, and has wasted hundreds of million on building lakes, among many poor uses of funds, this would not be a problem – and the Blanco Administration did nothing to stop or solve for these. Again, it’s not “you have to say enough is enough,” it’s a simple matter of political will: this reordering of priorities doesn’t occur because the Blanco Administration has other political goals in mind which involved making government bigger.

Fourth, in terms of the foolishly forgone option of giving tax cuts greater than the roughly one half of one percent of the entire budget that Blanco has allowed, LeBlanc seemed wedded to the tired, disproven idea that reducing the size of government takings from the people have a negative impact on future state revenues. As demonstrated historically time and time again, tax cuts lead to economic development that increases funding to government naturally since the economy grows. This, however, runs counter to the Blanco Administration’s belief that it is government that knows best what to do with the people’s money to develop the state economically.

Finally, this attitude is reflected further in LeBlanc’s of claims plowing money into high-profile areas that will help the economy grow, such as in secondary education. But this will turn out to be just good money chasing bad if not done correctly, and Blanco’s approach – throw money at teachers without asking for accountability from them in their job performances – leaves little confidence that there will be any real improvement in education quality in the state.

Nice try, but for those who know something about this latest budget and understand behind it its liberal/populist precepts, proven bankrupt both logically and historically, LeBlanc’s rhetorical defense of the Blanco’s Administration throwing away a great opportunity fools no one.

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