Life as we know it would come to an end in Louisiana. Colleges and universities would close and what’s left of publicly funded health care facilities in the state, well, they would be shuttered.
That’s what the prognosticators told us just a few months ago prior to the legislative session that concluded late last week. It seems a projected $1.6-billion revenue shortfall heading into the 2015-2016 fiscal year made a few folks nervous.
The prognosticators were wrong, of course, and as always, lawmakers found a way to at least create the appearance that the state budget was balanced. The end times aren’t here after all. Not now, at least.
It was a tall order to close a projected $1 billion-plus hole in the budget void of gutting higher education and health care, but hey, what’s a little revenue problem when there’s roughly $200 million discovered on the floor in the Capitol and some $700 million or more in new taxes to be raised. A few cuts in spending here and a few cuts there, and low and behold, a balanced budget is in hand. It’s that easy.
The voters will have a say in the very near future whether the actions of the Legislature were tolerable, for every lawmaker who seeks re-election will face the electorate in just four months. Not exactly enough time for us commoners to get a good dose of what it feels like to have about $1 billion in new taxes dumped on our backs, but those tax hikes will play a significant role in some legislative races. Mark my word.
I could go on ad nauseam about the good and the bad that came out of this year’s session, but what’s the point? The session is over. Gov. Bobby Jindal is on his way out of office. He’s a good man, and he did what he thought was right. History will have the final say on the Jindal administration, positive or negative.
A new governor and a new Legislature will take the reins of state government in January. But the state’s problems — fiscally and otherwise — will still be around, including a projected $1-billion revenue shortfall heading into the 2016-2017 fiscal year.
Already I can hear the hue and cry among liberals about the necessity to raise taxes on the backs of the business community to make things right. For who is in the eyes of the beholder.
Let’s face it. The Left in Louisiana, God bless them, won’t be happy until all of us who make a decent living are taxed half to death. Thus, the challenge going forward is very important.
The challenge, as you might expect, is to elect a governor and lawmakers who recognize money doesn’t grow on trees. Hopefully, they also will recognize a wholesale review of the roughly $8 billion the state spends each year courtesy of constitutional and statutory dedications should be the first order of business. Otherwise, we will continue to encounter budgetary shortfalls as well as live the under “threat” that the world is coming to an end.
Or we can embrace a boatload of new taxes that would make this year’s tax hikes look like Monopoly money.
The choice is simple. Pick one.
Sam Hannah is a state political writer