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Stuck on stupid XXIII: Focus on reelection instead of reality

Carnival ended over a month ago, but the message didn’t get through to Gov. Kathleen Blanco, whose 2007-08 budget showers the state with all sorts of additional spending with an eye towards trying to secure reelection – and thus threatens to throw the state into future fiscal crisis.

Economic observers long ago reached a consensus that unexpectedly high state revenues now experienced by Louisiana came as a result of a burgeoning false economy, fueled by federal reconstruction dollars that would halt by the end of the decade. Prudent voices called for returning a surplus now streaking past $3 billion to the people, to allow for greater individual investment that would boost economic development so that when the extra money stopping coming into the state, an improved private sector capacity could keep revenues higher.

But prudence or wisdom never have been the hallmarks of Democrat Blanco and the Democrat Legislature’s fiscal policies since they see government spending as a tool to buy votes to keep themselves in power. Blanco’s budget contains relatively little tax savings and instead commits the vast bulk of the expected surplus that can be spent on recurring items on such expenses, making commitments that the state unlikely can keep in future years without creating fiscal turmoil.

Not only does Blanco ignore reality in this budget, she demonstrates once again she would rather empower government than people. Her plans call for hiring another thousand people into a state bureaucracy already bloated. She also commits more money to the inefficient, ineffective institution-based indigent care system focusing on state-owned charity hospitals rather than redesigning the system in favor of a money-follows-the-person regime that will save money in the long run.

Unfortunately, Blanco has the votes to push through this incumbent-protection budget in the Legislature, but with a catch – the state spending cap which thwarted another free-spending attempt of hers last December. Here, Republicans if they stick together can stop at least some of this, since they have more than a third of the House membership and a two-thirds vote is required to bust the cap. Yet, this issue also may be one where Blanco will muscle through a triumph of politics over principle.

Because the state’s economic growth has been so poor, the cap grows slowly. But, as it turns out, in order to create more room for spending, actually the administration uses a less reliable computation to inflate the total. Depending how this number comes out, that could allow Blanco much more leeway to spend all outdoors despite GOP recalcitrance to allow this.

Blanco’s budget provides yet another example of how she and the rest of the politics-as-usual crowd that have made Louisiana last among all the states on so many quality-of-life indicators remain stuck on stupid.


Anonymous said...

Since you are critical of the governor's budget, when will we see your pledge to return any pay raise you receive as a faculty member in 07-08 to the state treasury?

Jeff Sadow said...

Nonsequitur; just because one part, or even the vast majority of parts, of something are flawed doesn't mean all parts of it are flawed.

For the record, I am critical of educator pay raises that have no accountability attached to them. I can support raises to college faculty members for two reasons, (1) we have such measures in place, and (2) higher education on most state campuses has been underfunded from the state formula for over a quarter century. This is opposed to elementary and secondary education, which has been fully funded and still does not have individual accountability measures in place (only those based upon the performance of the entire school).