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Shortfall response testifies to Blanco's lack of leadership

Is there any better illustration about the lack of leadership and refusal to take responsibility by Louisiana state government than how Democrat Gov. Kathleen Blanco proposes to “solve” the Road Home funding crisis?

The program for individual homeowner hurricane recovery looks to be $4.3 billion short, mostly because the state tried to pull a fast one on the federal government by surreptitiously expanding the program beyond the federal government’s intent to fund and shifting federal aid in ways federal law prohibits (the state claims it actually knows federal rules better than federal officials do and that the federal government should have known of these things). Despite being snookered, outraged federal officials and lawmakers kindly have taken the position that a bailout will occur if the state puts up some earnest money.

Blanco, who resisted that idea despite withering criticism, this weekend once again closed the barn door and ran after the horse, suddenly deciding to pledge to make up the shortfall with $718 million of funds – from the state in name only. Turns out they are mainly redirections of other federal funds for other purposes and also the recently waived matching requirement from the federal government for some of the over $60 billion the state has received from the federal government so far in recovery monies.

She complains that the state already has forked over $4.6 billion in its “own” funds to aid in recovery – itself a distortion of the truth. Take the sales tax money collected off the federal tens of billions of dollars, then slice out the state income tax proportion from all the imported workers assisting in the recovery, and you’ll find that’s close to that figure – it became the state’s money to spend only because the federal government made it available in the first place for the state to collect through taxation.

That fact illustrates that much of the state’s huge budget surplus is itself a creation of a bubble economy that already is dissipating. In essence, it’s a one-time bonus, so wouldn’t it make sense to spend it on a one-time thing like the Road Home instead of the pie-in-the-sky budget with large increases in recurring spending being pushed through the Legislature? Remarks to the state Senate Finance Committee by Blanco’s Commissioner of Administration Jerry Luke LeBlanc show just out of touch with reality the Blanco Administration is on this point.

LeBlanc, when asked why not dip into the state surplus for the Road Home shortfall, said “We have 144 members of the Legislature to deal with on that issue ... You don’t know what consensus you can reach.” Perhaps he can be forgiven for having been out of the Legislature for three whole years after a service there of over a decade for forgetting this, but the governor does have something called a line item veto. I’ll walk LeBlanc through this to help him out: Blanco calls in legislative leaders, tells them they had better commit a few hundred million of the surplus to Road Home, or she’ll use her line item veto take out about that much spending (vetoes that will be sustained with GOP legislator help) and then they can all get together in a special session in the middle of election season to dedicate it to the Road Home. She’d have that money set aside faster than it takes her to change her mind.

That’s called leadership, something to which Blanco is unsuited totally. Instead, she and her ilk that comprise the legislative leadership are like bratty, ignorant children who have to be dragged kicking and screaming into place until they do the right thing. The federal government is going to have to be the parent again here, in this case laying down one edict: take the $718 million thus pledged, add the $400 million set aside for the German steel mill that predictably never came to the state, and then it’ll talk about coughing up the rest. So this requires one more dose of tough love for the state government that refuses to grow up and take responsibility for its own actions and fate, instead of blaming others and wanting them to do the real work.

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