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Democrats, real and stealth, vote to subvert people's will

Democrats in the Louisiana Legislature and in the Governor’s Mansion yesterday showed they are so wedded to spending the people’s money that they don’t care if they crumple up the state’s Constitution in the process.

HB 228 by state Rep. Steve Scalise would define properly that way in which the “growth factor” is computed for budgetary spending cap purposes. The Constitution limits the amount of growth in spending on operating items to the growth in the economy, circumvented only by a two-thirds vote in each chamber.

It also specifies that the growth factor is computed by “the average annual percentage rate of change of personal income for Louisiana as defined and reported by the United States Department of Commerce for the three calendar years prior to the fiscal year for which the limit is calculated.” But the governor’s Division of Administration traditionally has not done this since it refuses to wait a couple of weeks before releasing a budget; rather, it always has used a quarter-to-quarter comparison between the first three quarters of years two and three to plug in a number for the missing quarter of the third year.

The state’s own Legislative Fiscal Office has criticized this method and it certainly seems tenuously connected at best to the provisions of the Constitution. More accurate, since it captures a year-to-year comparison better than the current quarter-to-quarter method, would be simply averaging the first three quarters of the third year together for a figure for comparison. Nevertheless, since Gov. Kathleen Blanco and previous administrations were reluctant to do so, Scalise’s bill would make the Administration compute a provisional figure using the latter method, then revise it if necessary with a budgetary adjustment if needed a couple of weeks later.

One might think accuracy in such an important matter as budgeting would be valued by elected officials. It’s a big difference – this year on the order of $734 million, more than doubling the allowed increase – using the actual number compared to the unreliable Administration method. Then again, Blanco and the Democrat majority in the Legislature are disciples of big government, frustrated by the purpose of the constitutional spending cap – deliberately designed to rein in government spending that exceeds economic growth in the state – so they will try to find the most favorable way to define the cap even if it means violating certainly the spirit, if not the letter, of the Constitution.

(Democrats also violated the integrity of the English language when discussing the ramification of the change. State Rep. John Alario said the lower figure would “cut” state spending. But, as Scalise pointed out, a “cut” occurs when you reduce spending year over year, not when you scale back the size of a proposed increase that never has been enacted and still would be an overall increase in spending.)

The clarifying provisions reflected in Scalise’s bill Democrats have signaled they will keep bottled up in committee. This prompted the Republican leadership to make a move to force the bill to be coughed up prior to its being dealt with in the committee system, since it is clear that Alario’s Appropriation Committee (comprised almost exclusively of Democrats) never will move on the bill.

That went down in flames with a majority voting against something that needed a two-thirds vote to succeed. Worrisome for Republicans is that a few of their members defected on this vote – Democrat converts state Reps. Alex Heaton, Lelon Kenney, and Billy Montgomery, and less-conservative Nita Hutter, Tom McVea, and Tank Powell. This tendency would imperil the GOP from keeping the cap from being busted completely, regardless of computation method, in future votes this session.

The people intentionally amended the Constitution to put the brakes on runaway government. The money to be able to spend past the limit is there only because of the temporary bubble economy created in large part by disaster recovery dollars from the federal government. Yet the fever for Democrats – and some Republicans – to spend money recklessly causes them to ignore a genuine expression of the people’s desires, their arrogance once again disserving Louisiana.

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