There’s A Fundamental Flaw In The Advocate’s Attack On House Republicans

The Advocate, whose staff and editorial writers can with a few exceptions be affectionately and collectively referred to as John Bel Edwards’ press shop, has released what I suppose they’d consider a scathing editorial on House Republicans this morning.

In reality, it is little more than an annually recurring piece designed to add pressure to House Republicans ahead of what will obviously be yet another contentious legislative session.

The state faces another fiscal cliff – a meaningless term, really – and it is clearly all the Republicans’ fault. The attack from The Advocate specifically targets the “fiscal hawks,” a group of lawmakers who regularly oppose big government spending and favor targetted cuts to the government instead of raising taxes.

This is the group that regularly opposed Bobby Jindal over key spending items as well, and they are in all actuality probably the only group of lawmakers in this state you should trust.

The flaw is that The Advocate takes Edwards too seriously and believes that the Republicans are the ones who have to give something up here. The editorial board believes that these Republicans should capitulate to Edwards and give him what he wants while getting little in return.

That is not negotiation, as they would like to call it. That is surrender.

Here is The Advocate:

After a decade of budgetary crises and shortfalls at the State Capitol, and two years of even more intense discussion of reform of the state’s tax system, the Republican leadership of the state House of Representatives can’t come up with a dime of specific budget cuts they will support, and they’ve failed to agree with any of Gov. John Bel Edwards’ proposed revenue replacements.

Once again, it is automatically the Republicans’ fault because they won’t raise taxes. There is no talk of the fact that Edwards is, quite simply, lying when he has claimed multiple times that he’s already reduced spending by $600 million. There is also no that about how Edwards’ budget proposal in his IT’S THE END OF THE WORLD press conference doesn’t do anything to balance the budget either.

In reality, Edwards’ cuts have been mostly erroneous. In a memo his office was circulating, there were a lot of items so questionable, even the Times-Picayune wasn’t buying it.

According to the Edwards administration, the governor and the Legislature have cut $672 million during the first budget cycles during the governor’s time in office. Among those cuts:

  • an $18 million reduction to mental health services
  • a $27 million reduction every month to each of the private organizations that manages Medicaid for the state
  • nearly $1 million in cuts to pediatric day care
  • an $11.9 million reduction to higher education during the 2016-2017 school year.
  • Saving $14.9 million by not opening the new Acadiana Center for Youth (for juveniles who are in trouble) in Bunkie, La.
  • Saving $9.6 million by converting Louisiana’s two private prisons into private “jails” in 2016

Several of these cuts — by the Edwards staff’s own admission — are not permanent though, and some reductions that span both years have been counted twice in that $672 million.

For example, the governor counts an $87.7 million reduction in TOPS college scholarship funding during the 2016-2017 school year toward that $672 million, though the cut only lasted one year. In 2017-2018, TOPS funding was restored.

And, as Scott McKay has mentioned a few times, you can’t say you’ve cut $600 million in the budget when the budget is actually a billion dollars higher than when Edwards started.

The fact that his budget proposal isn’t balanced only goes to further beclown his whining and moaning. The proposal he designed was specifically designed to make people angry and apply pressure to the House. It wasn’t serious, and it never was.

Look. It’s not that I expect honesty from Edwards (as a general rule, I don’t trust politicians at all, even the good ones), but I do occasionally expect a little intellectual honesty from the paper that covers the capitol. Tyler Bridges has done a good job of covering the issue fairly, but his employer’s own editorial board will refuse to.

Anyway, the editorial continues with the same, repeated attacks on Republicans we’ve come to know and love.

The House leaders have dawdled as temporary budget-balancing taxes passed in 2016 are set to expire, leaving state government in a world of hurt financially by July 1.

Instead of specifics, matching the governor’s proposals in scope if not in detail, the GOP leadership’s letter to the governor offered various process-oriented ideas, not all of which are bad.

But none of them give an honest and direct answer to the prevailing question: How will you fund government? Not in the long future, but today?

The answer to that question has always been the same from Republicans. It is to fund the government by lowering the cost of it, to trim the fat where needed and to fully fund the essentials where needed.

The problem with the budget is not a problem that started ten years ago, as the editorial alleges. The problem with the budget is decades in the making. Special interests and corrupt lobbyists decided to protect government spending through an amendment process rather than the traditional route.

We’re left with a state of fiscal affairs where the only viable large cuts to balance the budget come from the education and health sectors – two sectors that have been so inundated with cuts that they are at times in near-revolt over them.

This whole talk of nibbling around the edges that The Advocate accuses the GOP of is simply the result of how the system has to be played because it’s been so corrupted over the years that there is no alternative.

This is especially true given the protective nature of the big government Republicans, the entire Democratic Party, and the Democratic governor, all of whom refuse to give up meaningful cuts to government. Tax hikes designed by people who think the only way to “save” the state is to give it more money keep Louisiana from growing in meaningful ways.

There is a reason Louisiana is at the bottom of every list, and it’s not because Republicans are standing up to the governor over raising taxes. It’s because an already heavily-taxed base doesn’t want a new tax.

But, The Advocate, like most liberals in and out of the state, believe that the principled stand of the House Republicans is the problem. They believe that it is the Republican Party that must capitulate to Edwards. They simply will not entertain the idea that Edwards should propose something more serious and be prepared to give up something to Republicans.

Deal-making goes both ways. Edwards’ joke of a budget proposal is not serious and the Republicans are under no obligations to entertain it… although, for the record, I want them to. I’d really love for them to present Edwards with his own budget and force Edwards to veto it.

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