It turns out that about $28 million used in the fiscal year 2018 budget does not exist yet, and may not before the close of the year. That money depends upon resolution of lawsuits favorably to Louisiana, which an additional about $8 million did come available recently.
Two sources encompass the disputed dollars: money paid in protest by medical device manufacturers over a tax on those items and by businesses contesting a temporary one cent increase in sales taxes on utilities. There is no guarantee that either will be settled in the state’s favor or even that if a settlement occurs to its liking that this would occur before Jun. 30, although the utility tax case appears very probably to end in a victory for the state. But that case has dragged out for more than a year, and those funds originally appeared in the FY 2017 budget only not to become available.
Despite that, Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards, through a spokesman, continued to assert that he budgeted in a manner “honest and free of gimmicks.” That the utility taxes in escrow blew up last year negates both those points, and this only adds to a pattern of spending plan gimmickry under Edwards that becomes dishonest when denied.
Last year, for FY 2017 Edwards and legislators raided the Medicaid Trust Fund for the Elderly and Health Trust Fund to pay for ongoing expenses, for leftover FY 2016 expenses diverted some money that should have gone to the Budget Stabilization Fund, and then separately acted to cancel replenishing the Fund and others in future years. This year, the budget, for the second consecutive year, pushed a year-end payment to health care providers into the next fiscal year.
Tactics like these appeared in past budgets. And there’s nothing illegal or unethical about employing these to bring into line available revenues with planned spending; in fact, such maneuvers can cure imbalances produced by badly-constructed dedications. But honest policy-makers will call these what they are: gimmicks.
Constantly tap dancing around that fact does not become Edwards. That he keeps denying the truth only makes him more of a liar, contradicting his campaign pledge that “I will always be honest with you.” Meanwhile, future opponents running against his reelection undoubtedly can’t wait to call him a hypocrite on this and other issues.