Lawmakers fiddle around while Baton Rouge burns

By Robert Mann

Imagine you are leaving your house one morning for a long-scheduled dental appointment. A root canal, perhaps. As you back out of your driveway, you notice smoke rising from your roof. The house is on fire.

Do you keep your appointment? Or, do you stop and call the fire department? If your family is inside, do you go about your day? Or, do you help them escape before the flames spread?

Of course, any sane person would say, “The root canal can wait. Saving my home and family is more urgent than anything else at this moment.”

Perhaps, like me, you have noticed that while the Louisiana Legislature puts us through our biennial governmental root canal – otherwise known as the “Regular Legislative Session” – the state’s fiscal house is on fire.

Remember that $2 billion budget shortfall the state faced in the coming fiscal year? Legislators held a special session in February, but only partially solved the crisis with an array of temporary taxes and budget cuts. Because of their failure, Louisiana government still faces a $750 million shortage for the fiscal year that begins July 1.

It’s as if firefighters doused the flames on your house’s first floor but left the scene with the attic still burning.

Slightly complicating matters is the inconvenient fact that the state’s Constitution prohibits raising taxes during this year’s regular session, which ends on June 6, a mere three weeks before the new fiscal year. Does that alarm lawmakers? Apparently not. The regular session plods along as if we have all the time in the world to address our fiscal crisis.

Louisiana government is burning and lawmakers are fiddling around. To be sure, lawmakers must address important non-fiscal matters. But remember, our fiscal house is on fire. Unless lawmakers find another $750 million in cuts or tax increases before July 1, state hospitals will close and universities will be crippled. The work of the regular session, no matter how important, pales in comparison to our immediate fiscal emergency.

Given the dire situation, perhaps lawmakers should consider working longer hours, including weekends, and wrap up their current session a bit early, perhaps by late April or early May. That would give them time for another special session to fix the fiscal disaster they only partly addressed in February.

Continue reading on NOLA.com at this link.

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This entry was posted in Bobby Jindal, John Bel Edwards, Louisiana budget, Louisiana higher education, Louisiana Politics, Politics and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Lawmakers fiddle around while Baton Rouge burns

  1. msternb says:

    Should have printed your piece in red ink for even greater emphasis…

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  2. Stephen Winham says:

    And, lest we forget, the $750 million gap is an estimate based on a lot of unknowns and, WORSE, it is mostly temporary. So, really, not much of anything worthwhile was accomplished in the special session and nobody deserves congratulations. We basically still need close to a $2 billion PERMANENT solution and until we have one we will continue to flounder aimlessly. We clearly suffer from the inability to learn from our mistakes. After all, isn’t the bulk of the reason we are in our current shape the fact TEMPORARY “solutions” have been the “fix” for at least the last 7 years (and, on a more modest scale, going all the way back to the Foster administration)? The only reason the structural problem was ignored completely during the Blanco administration was the “luck” of having been hit by Katrina and Rita and the min-boom that resulted from rebuilding. Is this any way to manage anything? I’ll answer: HELL NO.

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  3. Bob’s word processor is literally ablaze while the metaphor here may just do the figurative slow burn.

    I recently forwarded to former business associate–and legislator in a neighboring district– an equally-excoriating analysis on legislative ineptitude published in this blog last month. It was an opinion of their operation at the statehouse with the part sibilant, part alliterative title “Calamitous Special Session Ensures Continued Chaos, Mediocrity.”

    The heretofore communicative legislator must have determined some things are best left unsaid and let the crickets to do the talking for him. Lest I induce an apoplexy in him that may be contagious in terms of infecting other House members, I will try curbing the urge to forward this beaut.

    Try, I said. And Bob, have you had your fire extinguishers inspected lately?

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