By: Pat Austin
SHREVEPORT – Normally, news of a $300 million surplus at the end of the State’s fiscal year would be good news, but here in Louisiana it is prompting questions and accusations amongst the political talking heads.
All summer long Louisiana residents were pummeled with news that our budget was facing a terrible deficit and that this would lead to Medicaid patients being evicted from nursing homes, convicts being released from prison, elimination of the food stamp program, and major cuts to higher education. We spent over a million dollars to hold three special legislative sessions in which we fought over a sales tax renewal of less than a penny which would supposedly solve all these budget problems.
And now, like a rabbit out of a hat, we have a $300k surplus.
Now, it’s not that we aren’t glad to have this money to spend on worthy projects. We are. But by and large, many people feel played. Manipulated. How can you be that far off with your fiscal projections?
Governor John Bel Edwards now says that this surplus is double good news because not only do we not have a deficit, but we have a robust economy which sparked this higher than expected revenue and so… voila! Surplus!
Some aren’t buying it; Louisiana State Senator Conrad Appel:
The way I see it there are two ways to explain this sudden revelation. One is that the governor and his staff were so inept that they could not see that revenues were improving and therefore truly believed in the fiscal cliff nonsense. That would have been bad, as we all trust him to manage a $29 billion business which is the state of Louisiana. If he doesn’t know where the money is, we have a problem.
The other possibility is that he and his people knew perfectly well that there was no fiscal cliff because we were bringing in more tax revenue than we were told. Instead, perhaps to support his well-articulated plan to grow government spending, he chose to ignore the facts and to not tell us that there was no fiscal cliff. That would not just be bad, that to me would be disingenuous and possibly even a violation of his oath of office.
I can think of no other options. We either have terrible fiscal management or we have been purposefully misled.
Now Governor Edwards wants to give teachers a $1000 annual pay raise. (It’s an election year, you know.)
So, it’s either a glass half full or glass half empty situation. You have a robust economy or you have an inept government. Or both?