It is truly an extraordinary moment in Louisiana history: Arguably the most liberal Republican Senate possible has broken away from Democratic governor John Bel Edwards and appears set to pass a budget that will cut government (and TOPS) while fully funding the Louisiana Department Hospitals.
Edwards, in the truest Edwards fashion, sealed his own fate the moment his administration sent out letters to thousands of elderly Louisiana citizens threatening to evict them. Much like the time he threatened LSU football, all Edwards did was alienate anyone across the aisle that might have worked with him, and instead solidified his opposition.
The budget itself is pretty financially harsh for the state. It fully funds LDH, but at the expense of every other government agency. Roughly one-quarter of each major department is having its budget cut, and TOPS takes a hit of $96 million (I’d be perfectly fine with deeper cuts to the departments and fully funding TOPS, but that’s an argument for another day).
The Senate Finance Committee allowing this to go before the full Senate next week appears to be a sign – one that is currently backed up by whispers out of Baton Rouge – that the Senate plans to vote on this budget, and that it has the votes to pass it.
The possible results of the budget’s passage would be devastating for Edwards. Either he eats crow and signs the budget proposal into law, or he vetoes it and then he’s the one responsible for evicting 30,000 people from nursing homes.
This, of course, assumes that this budget is permanent, which is not at all a guarantee given virtually everyone agrees we need another special session in June.
While I am not particularly thrilled about a 30 percent cut to TOPS (the House plan cut up to 20 percent, and the Senate is adding another 10 percent reduction to it), I am also reluctant to say “We need more revenue!” given that the let’s-raise-taxes strategy is almost certainly never enough.
It’s not even a discussion of raising revenue, frankly. Without a meaningful restructuring of our government, certain monies will be locked away forever (shoutout to my heroes in the Constitutional Convention movement, who have finally joined the One True Faith I’ve been prosthletyzing). But, if raising revenue was the only solution, Edwards isn’t going to be happy with just anything.
He wants only certain taxes. Raise the sales tax? No thanks. Try to tax the rich and businesses? There’s the ticket.
It’s a straightforward, fundamentally dishonest series of tactics on his part that has brought us here today. Edwards has consistently whined and complained about the fact that the previous administration left him this mess, although he fails to note that the previous administration never had to deal with the crisis of kicking old people out of nursing homes somehow.
The constant “Woe is me! Woe is us!” strategy has yielded no results for Edwards thus far, and it’s almost amazing that he has stuck to it with the loyalty of a Stockholm Syndrome victim. He has predicted the imminent downfall of the Louisiana state government every year since he took office, and next week will be no different.
While the current budget proposal from the Senate is certainly not ideal, it is survivable. Louisiana isn’t going to suddenly collapse. It can survive this, and frankly it could survive the replacement of a quarter penny in sales tax from each of us. What it can’t survive is constant bloating from big spenders who don’t realize states can’t spend their way to prosperity.
Hopefully, in 2019, we can elect a new governor who realizes that.