It has begun. The airwaves and print media are full of comments by many who decry the results of the governor’s 6th special session. The outcry is always the same – Baton Rouge is being inundated with Washington style politics; it all one big effort by a very few to block the governor; in the old days we always worked together, we always crossed Party lines. It is so interesting that many of the people who are all over the media are also the very legislators who support the governor’s proposals but failed to convince the rest of their peers of the merits of those proposals.
Those of you who have read my writings know that I believe that what happens in Baton Rouge is representative democracy at work. The members of the legislature are the voice of the people and the majority of the people believe that government is too big, too invasive, and too expensive. So when a big-government, high-spending governor brings a plan that is built upon growing the public sector through tax increases to a legislature that believes that spending must be controlled, the inevitable happens. That, not Washington style politics, is what we see in Baton Rouge.
Now let’s discuss the ramifications of years of “working together” – of allowing the governor, whomever that may have been, to dominate the political landscape. Our state ranks at or near bottom in almost all measures of success. We have a health care system imposed unilaterally by the current governor with no input or approval of the legislature, one that is going to increase spending by about $100 million a year compounded for the foreseeable future. We have a state government who according to the Commissioner of Administration will result in an added cost of $640 million more per year, every year (some of that is from healthcare).
One might ask what good has come from generations of legislatures who blindly follow a governor or who sheepishly work together in compromises that for political expediency result in lowering expectations; for the answer to that we need not look further than our present situation. Added to utter failure as a state, for as far into the future as we can see we face fiscal cliffs. This governor acknowledges the fiscal problems but shows no sign of attempting, let alone desiring to attempt, what is necessary to rein in out-of-control expenses. So we may assume that we will be faced with evermore demands for higher taxes and evermore cuts to state priorities. Great results from playing nice!
My answer to those who long for the good old days, for some mythical image of compromise for the sake of compromise – it’s way past time that the legislature stands up and refuses to be just a convenient affirmation of the governor’s political agenda. The ways that the naysayers pine over have resulted in mediocrity (or worse) at all levels and, if followed, will continue to do so.
And while I am at it, one more thought. When has Louisiana ever had a chief executive officer (the governor) who has even the least knowledge or experience running a $30-plus billion enterprise? The answer is NEVER. That is exactly why an independent and proactive legislature is so important. We have depended for far too long on the ability of a sole leader, a leader who always lacks such ability. We simply must draw on the intelligence, talents, and experience of the legislature to backup and guide a political leader who is driven by his/her own agenda.
So there you have it, a bunch of people who can’t prevail but who are comfortable with the way that we have always done things, complaining that some of us are finally acting in a new way. The legislature of a state that is last in everything finally saying enough is enough.
“It’s a basic question, is this institution going to stand up for a separate, independent, equal branch of government or not?”
John Bel Edwards
Truer words were never spoken and are imperative – especially today.