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Hanna: Republicans need a plan

Republicans in the state House of Representatives won’t succeed in convincing Gov. John Bel Edwards to back off his demand that lawmakers grab $119 million from the state’s Rainy Day Fund to shore up a mid-year budget deficit.

The Legislature convened a special session Monday to tackle a more than $300-million deficit in the current fiscal year, which ends June 30.  Besides tapping $119 million from the Rainy Day Fund, Edwards proposed a hodge-podge of cuts in spending to erase the red ink.  Surprisingly, Edwards steered clear of proposing any cuts for higher education and the Department of Corrections.

According to Tyler Bridges’ report in The Advocate on Tuesday, the Republican leadership in the House met with Edwards earlier in the day where Republicans proposed using $50 million from the Rainy Day Fund to help patch up the budget.

Republicans apparently feel they can make up the difference in the deficit with cuts in spending though no details on the cuts were disclosed.  That shouldn’t surprise anyone.

Edwards scoffed at the $50-million figure and insisted the Legislature take the maximum amount from the Rainy Day Fund that the law will allow.  State law says the Legislature can use up to one-third of the balance in the Rainy Day Fund to shore up a deficit.  In this case, one-third of the Rainy Day Fund is $119 million.

Edwards isn’t alone in his thinking that lawmakers should rely on the Rainy Day Fund to get out of the financial squeeze the state currently faces.  The Senate is on board with him and so are the Democrats.  Obviously, they all realize the path of least resistance is the easiest and most logical action to take to tackle this mess.

It doesn’t take a political scientist to figure out why Republicans in the House say they prefer to cut spending instead of dipping into the state’s piggy bank.  Cuts in spending play well — politically speaking — with the Republican base.  At least that’s the broader view of it.

Truth be known, the Republican base in Louisiana isn’t too far removed from what we would describe as moderate voters.  It’s just that some of them are willing to burn down a village to make a point.  Others would prefer to prop up the village because they recognize it’s too costly to rebuild it from scratch.

When the special session concludes Monday, don’t be surprised if Edwards gets his way on every major point to bring the budget back in line including taking $119 million from the Rainy Day Fund.  Republicans will score a few points on specific cuts in spending, but they’ll be so few and far between that no one will notice them.

So instead of butting heads with Edwards over how many millions of dollars should be yanked out of the state’s Rainy Day Fund to prop up government spending that, depending on one’s perspective, leaves much to be desired, Republicans need to get their act together and start prepping for the regular legislative session that begins in April.  Perhaps they should get on the offensive and give the voting public an alternative to consider.  At least an alternative to raising taxes or raiding the Rainy Day Fund or selling one’s soul to a special interest group such as a teacher’s union or the Louisiana Association of Business & Industry.    

Sam Hanna Jr. is publisher of The Ouachita Citizen, and he serves in an editorial/management capacity with The Concordia Sentinel and The Franklin Sun. He can be reached at samhannajr@samhannajr.com

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