Editor’s Note: A guest post by Shreveport-based demographer and political analyst Elliott Stonecipher.
No matter anything else, many Louisianans believed John Bel Edwards would shoot much straighter with us than did ex-Governor Bobby Jindal. It gives me no pleasure to say he is busily proving us wrong.
Our governor’s already infamous tax-and-spend war against Louisiana’s bedraggled taxpayers is anything but straight-up, regardless that his campaign portrayed him as honor-bound by his military code to so act.
Many a fact and truth clearly debunk the governor’s most basic assertions about Louisiana’s financial condition. Although it is tempting to accuse him of taking advantage of a “crisis,” such assumes there even is a crisis.
Our here in the real world where Louisiana’s tax payers live, labor and, well, pay taxes, basic facts – truth – instead expose tax-and-spend dogma, not a crisis.
A key such fact is this: with “only” the $2 billion in new taxes Governor Edwards has already authored and the state legislature raised, core state spending, after adjustment for inflation, is already set to be +23.8% higher than only 11 years ago.
Louisiana’s budget and spending for fiscal year 2004-2005 is the perfect baseline for such analysis. As that spending ended, Hurricane Katrina hit, followed during the period since by Hurricanes Rita, Gustav and Isaac, the Great Recession’s “Obama Stimulus” windfall, and the BP disaster.
… Louisiana’s core, general fund budget for fiscal 2004-2005 was $6.8 billion. Adjusted for inflation, that is equivalent to $8.4 billion today.
… Our comparable general fund budget for the current, now ending, 2015-2016 fiscal year is just over $9.0 billion.
(The exact amounts are $8,360,420,415 in 2004-2005, inflation-adjusted, and $9,042,826,000 in fiscal year 2015-2016.)
… That is a real increase of $682,405,585, or +8.2% in core state spending since 2004-2005, before any new taxes.
… A bedrock fact in all of this should be population growth rather than partisan political whim. Between July 1, 2005 and July 1, 2015, our population grew a very weak +3.3% … from 4,523,628 to 4,670,724 (data here and here). Now, it may well be dropping.
… An on-going drop in Louisiana government employees should greatly impact any need for more spending. A go-to Associated Press article from 2014 – still applicable I am told – explains this simply:
“Today, that workforce (of 93,500) hovers at 62,000 employees – fewer than it’s been in more than two decades. Spending on payroll has decreased by about $1 billion annually.”
With $2 Billion in New Taxes Already Raised, Edwards Threatens Doomsday
Using ages-old tax-and-spending doomsday hokum, our governor bangs the table saying he MUST have another $800 million in new taxes in the five final days of the special legislative session.
Bullfeathers. As explained, the $2.0 billion in new taxes already raised is +23.8% higher than in fiscal 2004-2005. Since then, Louisiana hauled in some $160 billion in extraordinary, never-budgeted revenue – over $140 billion from Hurricane Katrina alone. When that gusher of money ended, many programs – and much spending – remained in place.
That is our problem … it is a spending problem, not a revenue problem. That gusher significantly grew state government, and Governor Edwards & Friends are hellbent on locking it in with fiscal madness.
An honorable state budget would match spending to available, existing revenue.
Nothing in Louisiana is more endangered than a tax payer. State government has called the dance as 558,000 of us – net – moved away since 1985. Those remaining pay Louisiana’s bigger and bigger tax-and-spend band.
Governor Edwards does not care. If he did, he would honor tax payers.