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Wednesday, August 20, 2014
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Louisiana State Capitol (American Press Archives)

Louisiana State Capitol (American Press Archives)

State budget same song, dance

Last Modified: Thursday, March 06, 2014 12:13 PM

By Jim Beam / American Press

You can’t help wondering this time every year why Louisiana legislators spend so much time on Gov. Bobby Jindal’s proposed budget. Those who benefit are primarily concerned about getting their fair share, the critics are ignored for the most part, many citizens find the subject boring and the spending plan ends up pretty much the way Jindal wants it.

The House Appropriations Committee, which gets first crack at the governor’s $24.9 billion budget, decided this year to forego a month’s worth of deliberations until the session begins Monday. Although some believe that is a mistake, it at least saves the state a lot of per diem money it would be spending on legislators who normally attend those hearings.

Two of the harshest critics of the budgeting process are C.B. Forgotston, who has been dubbed “the King of Subversive Bloggers,” and state Treasurer John Kennedy. Both offer up great ideas for saving money, but their advice is always rejected. The Jindal team ignores both men. Lawmakers say they don’t pay attention to Forgotston because he is overly critical, and they think Kennedy is a publicity hound.

A group of conservative House members called the Fiscal Hawks have also been critical and they had some success in changing the budget process last year. However, it’s still a long way from the ideal.

Jindal has a simple process for funding a budget without increasing taxes. He “robs Peter to pay Paul.” The Associated Press said he steered tobacco settlement money away from health and education trust funds and into the operating budget, zeroed out a list of funds that had dedicated fees for specific purposes and drained an elderly trust fund that once contained $830 million.

The governor is also proposing to put $51 million in one-time cash into the state’s coastal protection fund and then take a similar amount from the fund to help finance next year’s budget. He wants to borrow $51 million from the New Orleans convention center and replace it with $75 million in state bonds over the next three years. Kennedy said that is $75 million that won’t be available for desperately needed road work.

The state sold a downtown Baton Rouge building for $10.2 million and put that money into the state overcollections fund. Forgotston correctly calls that a “slush fund” used to balance the state budget. A surplus of over $295 million in tax amnesty funds is being used to prop up the coming year’s spending plan. The governor has also used windfalls that won’t be available in the future to balance the books.

The Advocate of Baton Rouge put the Jindal budget system another way. It said the administration counts on “iffy dollars.” And that serves only to get the state from one budget year to the next. The newspaper said a public policy organization put Jindal’s current budget in its list of “the worst state budget gimmicks of 2013.”

Kennedy put it another way: “What we’ve done about the budget for the past five or six years is just wrap duct tape around it,” he said. “We’ve been balancing the budget with smoke and mirrors and accounting tricks.”

Rep. Brett Geymann, R-Moss Bluff, is a businessman and leader of the Fiscal Hawks. He said in the business world you wouldn’t sell a piece of property every year to pay the rent.

“I’ve always used the words ‘accounting gimmicks.’ I think (Jindal’s) using gimmicks. He’s used accounting tricks,” Geymann said.

Despite all of these valid observations, the governor and his team continue to put a happy face on everything. Here is what his press office said when Jindal’s budget proposal was released in January.

“Today, Gov. Bobby Jindal submitted a balanced budget proposal to the Legislature that holds the line on taxes, increases funding for higher education, increases funding for K-12 schools, increases funding for health care and continues to help foster an environment where business wants to invest and create jobs...,” the news release said.

What the governor didn’t say is that $88 million of a $141 million increase for higher education comes from increased tuition. State workers will get a pay increase, but they will also pay 5 percent more for their health insurance. K-12 education is getting more money, but only after five years of freezes.

The media reported that legislators appeared to be happy with Jindal’s budget proposal, but that isn’t anything new. Speaker of the House Chuck Kleckley, R-Lake Charles, spoke for many of them the day after Jindal introduced his budget.

“Things have worked out a lot better than they have in the past...,” Kleckley told the administration. “You’ve done a lot of work.”

Yes, the administration has done a lot of work, but it’s not the financially sound way to run state government. The administration still grabs any cash laying around, continues to take money intended for other purposes, depletes trust and other funds, doesn’t hesitate to use one-time money which Jindal campaigned against in 2007 and paints a rosy picture whatever the situation.

Except for a burst of independence last year from the Fiscal Hawks, you can see the budget process hasn’t changed much since the governor took office in 2008. Jindal controls the purse strings, so he always gets what he wants. However, have some pity for the next governor who will inherit a state financing system, as Kennedy said, that is patched together with duct tape.

Jim Beam, the retired editor of the American Press, has covered people and politics for more than five decades. Contact him at 494-4025 or jbeam@americanpress.com.


Posted By: PQW On: 3/13/2014

Title: I'm Glad...

he is destroying these "women clinics" which is another name for a place where they kill babies.I am glad he will veto the minimum wage bill.There is a reason they call it minimum wage. Minimum skill warrants minimum wage.I am glad they are refusing to expand medicare. People work hard so they can afford to pay for their insurance while others sent home and make babies they can't afford because they won't work and get their health care for free.Sure there are people that are less fortunate through no fault of their own but most are less fortunate because they chose to be.Life is what YOU make it.Have more things you want or need? Get better educated so you can get a bigger paycheck.Raising the minimum wage will not help anyone because the cost to business will just get passed to the consumer.

Posted By: Tammy Stryzewski On: 3/11/2014

Title: The Republican Way

Indeed, it is always the same. Jindal will likely veto the minimum wage increase (the very thing that would help students with that higher tuition they can't afford even now); support the oil companies instead of the people, attempt to destroy women's clinics while refusing medicare expansion at the same time, and continue to rob funds intended to help the less fortunate because Heaven forbid, a single cent come away from the millions in subsidies given to Wal-Mart, oil companies, and the film industry. I can only hope that one day soon people realize that it isn't jobs that help the economy. It's Money and Consumer Spending. Ten jobs will make no difference if none of them pay enough to afford anything but survival needs. Why do businesses lower prices with sales at Chrismas? Because it is a time of increased consumer spending. When you and I have money, we buy things. Has anyone ever seen a billionaire at a local toy store or pet shop or printing business? It isn't jobs. I have a job. I also have a growing list of things I need and want. If I had more money, I'd be out shopping and putting it back into the economy. Income taxed. Sales taxed. Gas taxed. Fed taxed. Sewer taxed. Trash taxed. Jindal takes my money and gives it to those that give nothing back, unless you happen to be the owner of the nice hotel they're staying at or perhaps the black tie resteraunt owner. They don't give anything back either. They likely don't even pay property tax, but I do. My retired parents do.
Another day being average in a Red State.

Posted By: Clifton On: 3/10/2014

Title: Jindal for president?

Jindal will use this and his abortion restriction propsals to pump up his conservative bonifides when he runs for president. But I suspect he'll flame out like his good buddy Texas governor Rick Perry did during the 2012 Republican campaign. Remember Jindal's disastrous response to President Obama's state of the union address. Like Perry, he does not play well on the national stage.

Posted By: Dwight On: 3/6/2014

Title: What does he care

Jindal is ready to move on. He does not care that the state budget is on the edge of the cliff. He gets to brag that he left without raising taxes. Ignore that body at the bottom of the cliff, nothing to see here.

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