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Fiscal conservatives hold line, deal Blanco reelection blow

Fiscal conservatives in the Louisiana rebelled against Gov. Kathleen Blanco, politics as usual, and the prevailing liberal/populist ethos historically in the state by defeating a resolution to increase state spending over its Constitutional cap. Only two Republicans – Hollis Downs and Tom McVea – and independent Joel Robideaux voted for it, while Democrats Jeff Arnold and Alex Heaton votes against it making the final tally 59-40 in favor, but two-thirds of seats were required to pass (I think; with three seats unfilled, the House has been unclear whether it is total seats or the seated membership).

The hypocrisy of many of the supporters of the resolution was staggering. As an example of the use of non-recurring funds, they argued it was important to reduce the backlog of transportation projects, talking about how the cost of roads presently was rising 1.5 percent a month – when they frittered away hundreds of millions of dollars in past years on building unneeded reservoirs that could have gone to roads. As an example of the use of recurring funds, supporters argued the cap needed to be relaxed to fund raises for teachers. Yet in 2005, Republicans offered such a pay raise as an amendment to the operating budget – and it was voted down by many of the same House members then who claimed they were all for it this day.

The difference is one of priorities. Tax cuts to those who actually pay them, pay raises, money for roads, and (as required by law) reduction of the unfunded accrued liability are considered by the House majority to be less important than to keep money flowing to fund a bloated state bureaucracy, or to favored constituencies, or to pet projects that should not be a matter of state funding. More often they will do things like pass sick taxes onto the people rather than look for efficiencies in program operation because they put special interests ahead of minimal government that empowers people. The only time they rise in support of the things they articulated approval for today is when they think there’s enough money to take care of these things they usually think less important.

This leaves the state spending limit at (now estimated to be) $194 million, and there’s been talk of diverting $50 million from the newly-created disaster fund to add on to that. Some spending then can get done and, if the supporters of today are genuine, they’ll funnel that money to roads or the unfunded accrued liabilities. But unless the Blanco Administration and its legislative allies can figure out a way to switch about a dozen House members’ opinions in the next six days, that’s all. And if not, this will represent, at the philosophical level, a defeat of the old convoluted prioritization and, at a political level, a blow to Blanco’s reelection efforts.


Anonymous said...

The recent Louisiana Supreme Court decision answered the question of whether the Senate should count total seats or seated membership when determining a majority or a 2/3 supermajority. The court found that the correct determination is to use total seats. The link to this case can be found here

Jeff Sadow said...

Thanks for letting me and everybody else know. So it always will be 70 in the House and 26 in the Senate regardless of vacancies, until and if the numbers of seats are changed (they are at the highest levels allowed by the Constitution).