Edwards, along with his new best friend forever Commissioner of Administration Jay Dardenne, look to invade legislators’ hometowns over the next two weeks to spin what happened in the regular session sandwiched by two special sessions. What happened was when comparing the state’s baseline spending – ranked 18th per capita among the states – to expected revenues Louisiana would come up way short in the upcoming fiscal year, and over the course of these sessions taxes went up $1.5 billion (after hikes of $800 million last year), general fund spending increased $800 million or 10 percent, and total spending escalated $2 billion or 8 percent.
Yet somehow that wasn’t enough for Democrat Edwards, who feuded with Republicans, particularly in the House, over raising taxes that left him more than $300 million less than he wanted. So prepare ourselves for the litany of excuses and red herrings to come from him an attempt to warp the reality of the matter.
He will say he entered office staring at a shortfall. Besides the obvious question of how could he complain about this because he knew what he was getting into and nobody forced him to run for the job, it became apparent early on that only cost cutting at the margins interested him and he also exacerbated the problems in some ways; for example, by promoting and wanting to expand the wasteful and inefficient Earned Income Tax Credit and as a legislator had authored a budget rider to inflate elementary and secondary education spending beyond the formula. And he voted for five of the eight previous budgets that put the state in this allegedly bad position, including last year’s.
He will call Republicans obstructionist, by their prevention of any more tax increases and marginal attempts to interject their own ideas for cutting expenses into the budget, implying that he could have done better with more “cooperation” – defined by him as capitulating to his terms – and thereby avoided what cuts did come. If so, that will be a lie.
If Edwards cares to read his job description, he presents a budget to the Legislature. What budget came back to him, which he ratified with his signature pending any forthcoming line item vetoes, in terms of priorities largely replicated what he sent originally, while without many cuts once envisioned because of the tax increases. For example, he initially wrote in far steeper cuts to the Taylor Opportunity Program for Students that became partially restored. He chose the priorities reflected in the end product, thinking if he threatened cut programs like that one popular with GOP legislators’ constituencies that they would cave in and increase taxes more.
He bluffed, and he lost when Republican left less funded some things. As mentioned elsewhere, he broke this budget and now he owns it. He authored and got most of the reductions in this budget. To blame others simply evades responsibility.
And he will bemoan not getting everything he wanted by saying something along the lines that critical needs went wanting. Really? Taxpayers footing the entire $300 million bill for less-than-mediocre students attending college was critical? Or paying almost $50 million annually to reduce people’s incentive to work courtesy of the EITC? Or paying $180 million to make movies? Or paying $136 million to provide free health care for individuals up to the 200 percent federal poverty limit that reputedly Medicaid expansion authorized by Edwards should take care of (although by the end of the decade expansion will become a net annual drain on the budget and in the next decade cost the state $4 billion extra)? And on and on it goes.
Nor does such an assertion consider paring inefficiencies first instead of asking more form taxpayers. Just a cursory investigation of the Department of Health’s activities, which will consume nearly half of the operating budget, reveals areas of cost savings that could provide resources to fund other areas.
So if any “critical needs” go unfunded, these result from poor prioritization on Edwards’ part and poor administration overseen by him. Fobbing this excuse off as the product of others unwilling to ask Louisianans to pay more from their earnings or at the cash register means he thinks the citizenry should pay for his own shortcomings.
But the dog-and-pony show will go on for an administration desirous of expanding government against the grain of a public generally ideologically reluctant to see that. It will keep repeating the same tired and discredited arguments to that end, according to the Goebbels Principle – repeat a lie often enough and people accept it. That’s the whole purpose of this exercise – yet another item for which taxpayers will foot the bill that they probably aren’t crazy about.