Yes, there are a few bills here and there which could make for some interesting debate, but at the end of the day the crux of the session which began yesterday is the debate over the state’s $30 billion budget.
The most important man at the center of that debate will be House Appropriations Committee chairman Cameron Henry (R-Metairie). Here was Henry, in a video he posted to Facebook yesterday, talking about an idea Gov. John Bel Edwards floated in his speech opening the session that no budget be passed until a special session after this one…
Edwards’ proposal supposes that there be no cuts to the state budget, because he wants to raise taxes by close to a billion dollars rather than have the state not spend $30 billion or more in FY2019. It’s a wholly ridiculous position and a wholly ridiculous idea that the legislature not scour the budget in search of cuts which could easily be made.
After all, this is a state with 4.6 million people and Edwards wants to spend $30 billion on a government which isn’t engaged in anything significantly different than when it was spending $25 billion.
Outside of that $15 billion for the Louisiana Department of Health, of course. If you’re looking for something to explain how Louisiana went from a bad government costing $25 billion per year to a bad government costing $30 billion, it’s the 33 percent growth in just three years for the Louisiana Department of Health. And yes, most of that increase is due to the Medicaid expansion Edwards signed in 2016, which has put close to a half-million people onto the government dole. And yes, most of that money is federal funds. But a good $1 billion of it is state dollars.
Edwards says the Medicaid expansion has actually saved Louisiana money, but yet the state-funded portion of the LDH budget is up close to a billion dollars.
Which does not compute.
As new LAGOP chairman Louis Gurvich noted yesterday, the only way forward from the current insanity is fiscal discipline and budgetary constraint. The orgy of state spending has to stop, and it has to stop in this session.
We’ll see if the fiscal conservatives in the legislature can win this time. It’s the only fight really worth watching in this session.