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Geymann post, perk passing produces poppycock, piffle

So state Rep. Brett Geymann is quitting his Natural Resources and Environment Committee post and giving up his rent-subsidized apartment across the street from the Capitol? Yawn, and to be expected from someone who on his signature issue has been much more a show horse than a workhorse.

Breathlessly reported in the media, in letting the wider world that no doubt hungered for news about him know about his dramatic life change, Geymann sounded like he had just been disgorged from an est seminar: “I need to separate myself from any perks just to be clear I’ve got one thing in my focus and that’s working on the budget.” And thus he spake, making himself into a modern-day, male, budget-worshipping Julian of Norwich. One might have been excused for expecting a following announcement that he would dress going forward in camel’s hair and eat locusts and wild honey in the desert, the better to lead the way into the New Fiscal Kingdom.

Evicting himself from Pentagon Barracks doesn’t mean he must wander the desert preaching, but it has a little significance. The complex has room for only about a third of all legislators with a tolerance for roommates, so seniority plays a role in grabbing a bed and there’s always a waiting list to get in. Or maybe the saturnalias that rumor has that still break out there from time to time despite ethics reform simply may be too distracting for his purity of fiscal thought.

But tossing the committee assignment aside is pure theater, because he’ll need another. This leaves his only other one as a place on the Joint Legislative Committee on the Budget, which is just an extension of his Appropriations Committee spot. No non-chairman or non-vice chairman in good health in the House has just one permanent committee slot; if the rules are bent for him, it would be because he and Speaker Chuck Kleckley are, in district terms, next door neighbors and fast friends.

One wonders what his colleagues on the committee think of this pronouncement who must feel they have a handle on things without the pious proclamations of asceticism. Does it mean they are insufficiently committed to the cause? Or what about his fellow members from his region, who almost did not vote him onto the committee (unique among House panels, a regional election method applies for Appropriations, which he got only when a competitor withdrew), at this suggestion they let worldly matters such as constituents’ desires cloud their visions of good governance?

There are words to describe this pageantry, being “poppycock” in its substance and “piffle” in its mode of presentation. And it should not surprise, for Geymann has a recent history of talking for effect representing little of substance. Foremost is his declaration that no “one-time” money ought to besmirch an operating budget, a proposition that makes as little sense as during the year someone seeing funds accumulate in a Christmas fund in the bank beyond what can be expected to be spent on gifts, yet forswear their use while walking around with holes in the soles of his shoes.

As explained previously, most “one-time” money comes from recurring, predictable sources, just like the means tied to the general fund. The only difference is in bookkeeping: these revenue streams get directed to dedicated funds like pocket change into piggybanks until you can’t stuff in any more of them but also cannot toss them into the general funds where they might get used unless having special permission. Geymann’s chief idea has been to make getting this permission as difficult as possible and that money sitting around never to be used for its intended purpose is better than using it for the needs of the state.

Which of course does not indicate intent of serious fiscal reform. Far better it would have been in terms of actual and genuine contribution on this issue for Geymann to call in the media to announce something like he was going to spend the next nine months reviewing every dedicated revenue stream for every dedicated purpose in the state, decide which purposes should fulfill real need and whether the revenue streams dedicated to them were appropriate for that priority or even whether they should have a funding mechanism locked in, to figure out which spending purposes to discard and whether their associated revenue streams should join them or be redirected into the general fund, and then for next year to write up legislation to wipe out the superfluous of both. And that he would do this while doing all of his other legislative tasks.

But that’s hard work, and it’s so much easier to create headlines by issuing jeremiads about fiscal probity and fatwas against using any recurring revenue stream that does not have the primogenitureship of the general fund. That does nothing to right-size government and instead throws the baby out with the bathwater from the lack of any real connection between the purpose and presence of a revenue-raising means and what government does with it. But this approach is just so much easier with which to grab headlines and to make you look like a champion of fiscal reform when actually you do little of substance to achieve it.


Anonymous said...

Well, you've done your writing obligation for the governor today by doing your best to go after one of his conservative opponenets.

You can now go back to putting your head in Jindal's lap.

Anonymous said...

What a bunch or rubbish. Clearly this is written by what my blue collar father used call an "egghead." This also is why I tell my daughter in college to patronize her liberal professors by acting like she agrees with them, then upon graduation do everything she can in the "real world" to elect legislators that will strip tenure and position from those who know only how to make a living in the academia world and never worked a real job.

In regards to Representative Geymann's resignation from the Natural Resources committee being a "yawn," this morning when I was in New Orleans there was a local radio program than dedicated an hour to discussing this - including calling Mr. Geymann for an interview. Then, when I was in Baton Rouge later that day, a local station there also was discussing it. Hmmm, odd two different radio stations thought this important enough to dedicate so much time.