Search This Blog


Blanco closes barn door, chases budget reform horse

Gov. Kathleen Blanco must really think the recent political fallout of her reaffirming that she is a card-carrying member of Louisiana’s politics-as-usual crowd was bad, for she sent her Commissioner of Administration Jerry Luke LeBlanc to spin a dubious line to the media with yet another close-the-barn-door-after-the-horse-gets-out promise. News flash: it’s still not convincing anybody.

Last month, as the due date whether to cast line-item vetoes on the state’s operating budget drew near, critics raised their voices against a number of items destined to assist non-profit organizations in matters that appeared best left to the private sector to fund, and also other items for local governments that should have been so low on the state’s priority list as to be microscopic. What particularly raised their ire is that Blanco had promised such items would be removed from state funding with her bureaucratic box-shuffling that eliminated the so-called Urban and Rural Funds, yet here many of that type were still stuffed in the budget.

The solution, many argued, was for Blanco to use her line item veto on these. Pressured, Blanco politically blundered by saying other state elected executives should take responsibility for identifying such items, especially Treasurer John Kennedy. He happily did, almost immediately sending her a lit of tens of millions of dollars of items to axe.

Blanco, of course, had no intention of cutting much of anything on the basis of real needs for the state. We must not forget that Blanco conceives of the state budget first and foremost as a political tool to reward certain constituencies that she believes can keep her in power, and not really as device to ensure that the state only spends on things that are really necessary to the benefit of all, as well as reducing those total expenditures to allow more money to stay in the hands of owners of it, the people.

Only this attitude can explain the entire chain of events. Blanco went ahead and vetoed some very politically easy items, much of which she said would be restored, amounting to just a fraction of Kennedy’s recommendations. At the same time, she issued an executive order asking for basic data and reports on the items for non-public entities. LeBlanc’s latest appearance was to hype this bandage over a gaping wound, and trying to shift attention to the Legislature by requesting the order be passed into law.

This “accountability measure,” naturally, is no such thing at all, consisting of maybe 10 minutes work to prepare the first report and 5 minutes worth of copying each month or quarter it’s due. “Accountability” is useless when money is being spent for spurious reasons in the first place; her order will do nothing to stop money from being wasted and its only purpose is to distract the public from Blanco’s real failure of leadership on this issue.

If Blanco really meant it, if she truly were serious about budgetary reform, she would have issued a very different executive order much earlier in the year, setting out criteria by which any budgetary item not going to a government entity would be graded, criteria based upon how critical a need was to the entire state. She then would have put her money where her mouth was and vetoed any item that did not rank highly enough on the criteria. In fact, she even allowed the Legislature to flout her request not to put items in categories that tried to disguise their true nature, taking no action to negate that.

Because of the way Blanco handled it, in panic mode realizing she was taking a public drubbing over the controversy, it demonstrates she never considered such an alternative nor ever meant to enforce her articulated reform measure. Rather, she reacted to pervasive, negative public opinion she never anticipated to actions she really endorsed with a feel-good, do-nothing act. This dog-and-pony show fools no one, and putting the useless order into law will just serve to waste more taxpayer dollars.

No comments: