APPEL: John Bel’s Politics Of Fear

“In politics, nothing happens by accident. If it happens, you can bet it was planned that way.”
Franklin D. Roosevelt

And thus our governor is going to send letters to elderly and sick nursing home residents telling them that they will have to move out because the Legislature has failed to fund nursing homes. As Roosevelt said, nothing happens by accident – this is clearly part of a sinister plan to use the most fragile in our state as leverage against a legislature that has refused to follow the governor on the road to the great welfare state.

Strong words, sure. But the fact is that in every year funding for nursing homes is never assured until the Appropriations bill is signed by the governor. That only comes after the Legislature has completed its work. So here we are, in the middle of the legislative process…and suddenly there is this great need to scare old and sick people out of their wits!

Ask yourself, has there ever been a time when the Legislature has failed these fragile citizens? Has the Legislature ever not funded the programs that support nursing home costs? Simple answer – never. So what makes the governor think that something is different now?

The answer to that question is ugly and is wholly of his doing. The current version of the Appropriations bill already passed by the House and currently being debated in the Senate contains funding for a full 11 months of nursing home support for these folks. What the governor will not put in his letter is that his goal is to kill this very bill in order to create political chaos in the hope that due to this chaos the Legislature will surrender and institute his massive tax increases. In this disingenuous way it is the governor himself, not the Legislature, that is actually trying to end the funding for the people living in nursing homes.

The Legislature is doing its job. Had the Legislature followed the governor’s lead we would have already raised about $1.2 billion in new taxes when just a few months later we now know that we may only need between $400 and $600 million to do the job. That is a huge sum that the taxpayers of Louisiana will not have to shoulder.

The Legislature is moving in a steady manner toward fair funding of state services. By this time next week the Senate will hopefully have passed the current version of the Appropriations bill and we will be ready for the next step. That step, widely accepted by all, will be a special session, but not anything like the session that the governor wants. As noted his goal is to create chaos as leverage. Even though the currently-being-debated bill fully funds most of them now, his strategy would force all agencies to face off against each other all over again for their funding needs.

The strategy that the Legislature is following is to enter into a special session that will be focused upon raising only enough funds as necessary to fund the balances for those budget items not fully covered by the Appropriations bill. In this manner the Legislature will be able to properly fund government services without unfairly burdening taxpayers with the superfluous taxes that the governor wants to use to grow government.

Our state has sunk to a new low when our leadership, to win a political squabble, would use contemptuous scare tactics against the most fragile and easily frightened of our people. Where is the honor in such tactics? Where is the empathy in anyone who would even think to do such a thing?

Politics is a dirty game, I get that. But some things are just so despicable that they must be off limits.

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