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LA budget reform ideas good, but start reviewing now

Gov. Bobby Jindal got it right again with his stumping for greater flexibility for policy-makers to adjust Louisiana’s operating budget. But he needs to be even more ambitious in what he asks from the Legislature on this matter.

Last week, Jindal outlined an agenda regarding this question for legislative consideration this upcoming session. The state faces a large projected deficit but due to the fact that the budget faces 391 different direct appropriations of funds for a particular purpose, it leaves little flexibility and forces reductions largely in the areas of health care and higher education.

To change this situation, Jindal asked that the Legislature to send forth an amendment to the Constitution to give the governor authority to cut as much as 10 percent from anywhere in the budget (except for the Minimum Foundation Program which funds secondary and elementary education), doubling the current allowed standard that kicks in when the budget is sufficiently in forecasted deficit. He also asked that they change the statute to allow this to be a potential annual occurrence if needed, instead of the present standard of every other year. Finally, he also asked it to set up a mechanism to create sunset review of all dedications of funds every four years.

These all are excellent (if not new) ideas. Not only would they present more options to deal with crises, but they wisely demand that priorities be reviewed on a regular basis. Still, Jindal can challenge the Legislature to go one step further. Over 90 percent (358) of the dedications are statutory; why not start the review process now in time for this year’s budget? That’s a lot to look through, but the Legislature start by reviewing the largest in dollar and/or the most obviously egregious. For example, what about the law that dedicates gambling proceeds to fund eradication of boll weevils, which for years has vastly exceeded needs and for years permitted former Agriculture Secretary Bob Odom to legally divert these funds for other dubious purposes?

These bills need to be given high priority and the review process that would be enshrined into new laws should commence now before their passage in order to provide the most flexibility now that it is needed. Jindal should add this last provision to his shopping list for this year’s regular session.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Dr. Sadow,

Where do I get a copy of the bills you refer to? I'd like to see exactly which funds he is going to eliminate.

A dedicated fan.