Last Modified: Tuesday, April 08, 2014 1:10 PM
Gov. Bobby Jindal’s announcement late Friday of a budget freeze may have caught state lawmakers off guard, but it shouldn’t have come as any great surprise to those who have been paying attention to the budget process.
The governor ordered the freeze that in all likelihood will remain in effect until the end of the state’s fiscal year on June 30.
Ironically, last fall was the first time in Jindal’s six years in office that he did not have to order mid-year budget cuts. The birds just came home to roost later in this budget cycle.
Some state lawmakers like state Rep. Brett Geymann, R-Moss Bluff, have been questioning Team Jindal’s budgeting antics where funds are raided and Peters are robbed to fund Pauls with little regard to who gets hurt. The criticism is about to get louder, particularly for members of the administration who’ve been applying a happy face to the budget when reality said otherwise.
And legislators are finally awakening to the fact that these accounting practices are about to leave the state in a fiscal mess just about the time Jindal leaves office at the end of 2015.
Already, the governor has nearly depleted the Medicaid Trust Fund for the Elderly which had an $800 million balance when he took office. The governor’s administration has also drawn criticism for taking $51 million to balance the budget from a fund for protect and repair the state’s coast. Another $6 million has been diverted from wind damage reimbursements from Hurricane Gustav in 2008 to cover state Department of Corrections’ retirement costs.
Critics also say the current state of affairs places in jeopardy a $40 million fund that has been promised to state universities and community colleges to meet the growing demand for job training, and a raise for state workers that has been proposed for the 2014-2015 budget.
Jindal doesn’t deserve all the blame. Legislators are reaping what they have sewn for taking a pedestrian approach to the idea of closing tax loopholes and exemptions that are costing the state more money than they are bringing in.
So the state and its residents find themselves in another budget fix with the lack of political will or courage to fix it.