By Robert Mann
Republican leaders in the Louisiana House have much in common with their counterparts in Washington. Congressional Republicans yammered about Obamacare for years. When they got the power to repeal and replace it, however, we discovered they never considered the replace part.
Likewise, in Baton Rouge, Republicans have long grumbled about bloated government. But given the opportunity to counter Gov. John Bel Edwards’ revenue proposals with a robust austerity plan, they are even less serious than their D.C. cousins.
On Monday, urging lawmakers to consider his revenue plan, Edwards again challenged recalcitrant House Republicans to quit carping about cuts and cough up a detailed program.
“When you make those sorts of statements, you’re only telling half the story if you don’t follow them up with the next piece of the equation which spells out the consequences of what you mean — exactly what you intend to cut,” Edwards said. “What college or hospital you want to close. What road in your district you’d rather not see built or re-paved.”
What Edwards argued was simple: If you think state government needs cuts more than it needs revenue, then put those cuts on the table.
That peeved Speaker Taylor Barras, R-New Iberia, who seemed to suggest House Republicans have a plan. Barras explained Republican members are supporting some of the 140 to 150 budget bills in the current fiscal session of the Legislature.
Suggesting that their backing of several non-specified bills is a cohesive budget-cutting agenda is evidence Barras believes his constituents are as dense as he is derelict.
Imagine saying you are building a house. Interested, I ask, “Can I see your plans?” You reply, “Well, I have several sets of plans.” Constructing a house is like reforming a revenue system. If you have several plans, you have no plan at all.
The reason Barras and his colleagues won’t get behind a plan of deep budget cuts is simple: They know that putting their ideology on paper — specifying which prisons, colleges, hospitals and DMV offices to shutter — won’t be popular. Better to throw stones at Edwards, label him a tax-and-spend liberal, vote down everything and use the resulting failure as fodder against him in three years.
Like his ideas or not, Edwards is the only person at the Capitol with a real plan. Barras and his crowd are empty-handed and seem willing to let the state’s fiscal misfortunes devolve into a disaster because of their pathological aversion to taxes.
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