While unusual, the move
to separate out appropriations for a constitutional office as done earlier
this week in Louisiana’s House Appropriations Committee is not, as defenders of
Democrat Gov. John Bel
Edwards allege, unconstitutional, or even uncouth.
At the request of Republican Atty. Gen. Jeff Landry, the
GOP-controlled committee removed references to the Department of Justice in the general appropriations
bill HB 1
and instead tucked these into a separate HB 105. Further,
the separate bill contained instructions giving Landry the authority to make
cuts in any fashion within the department should revenue shortfalls occur
during the fiscal year. In response, Democrats on the committee as well as
Commissioner of Administration Jay Dardenne opined that
they thought handling appropriations in this fashion did not comply with the Constitution.
But nothing in the Constitution disallows such an
approach. Art. III
Sec. 16 declares that the Legislature produce a general appropriations bill
“itemized and shall contain only appropriations for the ordinary operating
expenses of government, public charities, pensions, and the public debt or
interest thereon.” It then allows that “All other bills for appropriating money
shall be for a specific purpose and amount.” As such, HB 105 appears to meet
this standard – as do the several other appropriations bills other than the
general one typically passed each year, for the legislative and judicial
branches and ancillary expenditures.
Such is his eagerness to impose upon Louisianans a
program that costs
too much and delivers badly that Gov. John Bel Edwards
wants to expedite Medicaid expansion by grabbing
eligibility data from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. That
shortcut only would compound the mistake.
While his administration plans on this and other
tactics to try to get people into the system for a Jul. 1 start, it also touts
this move as a way to launch expansion more quickly and more cheaply, as in
Louisiana SNAP qualifiers not already part of Medicaid theoretically also meet
the same test standards to receive its expanded version. However, to do so
risks wasting taxpayer dollars beyond the inherent characteristics of the
program and population it serves, because of the error rate involved with SNAP
Misleadingly, the Pres. Barack Obama
Administration tries to create the
impression that improper payments amount to just 1.3 percent of the total.
Yet it derives that figure not from a calculation of eligibility, but from the
vendor fraud rate without
explaining why it equates the two very different things – the former
assesses whether the actual users of SNAP benefits should qualify legally,
while the latter looks at stores’ illegal sale of SNAP benefits for cash or
other ineligible items. In fact, as detailed in a General Accounting Office report,
the federal government really has no idea of the fraud rate from benefits going
to ineligible people, but evidence suggests that to be at least triple
the erroneously-cited figure.
Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards
continues to dance faster to avoid the landmines, but it seems inevitable that
soon he will touch off one dealing with human life that will contrast negatively
his actions with his words.
During his gubernatorial campaign, Edwards
succeeded in making a sufficient portion of the voting public believe that he
was conservative enough on social issues to obscure his garden-variety leftism on
most others and get himself elected. To anyone who listened he alleged his
Catholicism informed his views on these issues, asserting as a man of faith he
followed his religion’s doctrines on such matters as when life began and the
evil of abortion – despite his statement when contemplating a run for Congress in 2006 that “Abortion is the freedom
of choice, between the appropriate parties and their higher power.”
But now as governor he has to put his money where
his mouth is, and legislation carried by social conservatives will put him to
the test. Interestingly, bills that have the effect of curtailing abortion that
go much farther than Louisiana ever has since the U.S. Supreme Court
interpreted the Constitution to mean that states could not regulate the
gruesome act have sprung up this session, despite that there would have been no
question of their acceptability in previous years given the unimpeachable
pro-life views and actions of former Gov. Bobby Jindal.
If you want an illustration of the shortsightedness
and stupidity of Gov. John
Bel Edwards’ policies, generally speaking, check out oyster shucking.
Orleans Times-Picayune ran a feature
on a day in the life of working at an oyster processing plant. The industry
pays a couple of bucks above minimum wage, although high producers can earn
more, to a workforce almost exclusively foreign – legal immigrants brought in
under a seasonal guest worker program, because almost no American citizens will
work the job. At the facility profiled, of those citizens who do, they significantly
underperform compared to the foreigners.
Perhaps paying higher wages might attract more
Americans to the job, which takes a narrow but necessary skill set to develop,
or make them more reliable: the company in question says that the American
workers miss many more days of work than do the legal immigrants. At the same
time, raising wages too much more, asserts the company, would drive up costs
significantly in the labor-intensive industry and price out fare that includes
oysters from most buyers.