We’re just a few days away from the end of what sure seems an excessively long and arduous election season – the Saturday, November 21 end 0f political campaigning which we’re all likely looking forward to.
In point of fact, however, the end of this election season really signals the beginning of the most critical phase of the work – for both those who make the promises of effective representation – and those who will re-hire or fire the promisers, based on their performance, at the next election cycle. Or at least that’s the ideal of our form of government.
Just a reminder of what the near future portends for Louisiana with a review of the recent past. Even a short re-visit of the 2015 Louisiana legislative session includes more than one capitulation to Governor Jindal’s presidential aspiration agenda, but the most notable among other magic fairy dust budget fixes was the SAVE Act.
Effectively explained by the Baton Rouge Advocate’s Marsha Schuler: “The SAVE program came to the House floor as an addition to an educational tax credit bill. It would assess a fee of about $1,500 per higher education student and raise about $350 million total, but only on paper. Students wouldn’t have to pay anything because an offsetting tax credit for the $1,500. Nor would universities receive any new money.”
“However, the SAVE fund would create a tax credit for the $350 million that Jindal could use to offset $359 million of the new revenue that legislators are proposing to raise.”
That, among other budget gimmicks, “balanced” the state budget.
The House vote was 59-43; Senators approved this amazing deception on a 30-9 vote.
Fast forward to outlooks for the 2016 legislative session and beyond … projections by the state’s Revenue Estimating Conference suggest an estimated $713 million budget shortfall facing state lawmakers in the spring of 2016, And it grows from there over the next three years to, again, over a billion dollars.
But it’s predicted that there will be at least two legislative sessions in 2016 to address this critical circumstance with both run-off candidates for governor, John Bel Edwards and David Vitter, looking at an immediate special legislative session soon after the first year.
And that’s just a very good reason to suggest that now is the time to start grading a new Governor, and especially incumbent and new lawmakers, on their respective near future performance in changing fiscal the course of Louisiana from the absurd to the absolutely/resolutely serious in balancing Louisiana’s budget – and the state’s economic future.
If there’s any doubt about that work, perusing Jeremy Alford’s October 22, 2015 LaPoliticsNow blog should provide a wake-up call to Louisiana voters. Alford quotes the Washington D.C. based Tax Foundation think tank’s observation that “Louisiana has reached a fiscal reform crossroads” that “desperately needs administrative improvement.”
Negative press doesn’t do much good for investment in Louisiana by national or global concerns. Budget gimmicks do not provide long-term fiscal planning platforms to renovate or build state/local transportation systems. Patchwork budgets that fall apart almost as soon as their contrived do not support superlative education systems, or provide state-of-the-art health care or education/research facilities. Fairy dust fixes may pave the way for short term presidential aspirations, but they do not move Louisiana forward on any budgetary level.
Folks who believe that their vote counts might also consider that follow-up counts for even more. Every one of the electees that we send to Baton Rouge this year, either by uncontested return to office or by an October 24 or November 21 election, should be immediately reminded that we hold them to their campaign promises.
And when these elected representatives fall short – we should remind them quite publicly, vociferously, and often of their failure to meet the promised performance.
On the other hand, should we fall short of our obligation to hold these elected folks to their promises and duties – perhaps we might take a few minutes to discern just where rests the real blame for our state’s problems.
Marty Carlson is a columnist for the Bossier Press-Tribune. She may be reached via email at email@example.com