There are a growing number of us in the Senate that are increasingly concerned about the trajectory of spending growth that the governor has embarked us upon. Oh, I know many will say its just those Republicans who are just out to get John Bel Edwards or its just those Republicans who don’t want any taxes. I can’t dissuade those of you liberal Democrats in this state from your tactic of if you don’t like the message, kill the messenger but let me try to explain our predicament one more time.
Since Governor Edwards took over we have increased taxes and fees on our citizens and businesses by over $2 billion (total spending is up $7 billion). That’s one issue but that is not what keeps us up at night. It’s not the amount of new taxes and fees, it’s the nature of the spending.
We just learned that the Louisiana Department of Health’s budget has grown since last year by a billion dollars. Like so much else in the state’s budget this spending is recurring and grows year over year. That is, no matter what we do, this liability must be met every year. As the demand for these guaranteed state services grows then we have to fund that also. Exacerbating the situation, so many people in Louisiana have become addicted to these entitlements and they would be hard pressed to do without them.
Now what is nerve-shattering is that this escalating spending growth has no caps or circuit breakers. If revenue declines we will have to dramatically raise taxes and undertake serious cuts, cuts that will devastate families.
Did I say “If revenue declines?” Let me re-state that – WHEN revenue declines. You see thanks to President Trump’s amazing economic record, we have avoided a substantial economic setback that by all thinking should have occurred two years ago. But even his economy can’t stand up to the business cycle and whether next year or five years from now we WILL see a major downturn. By example during the last national economic retrenchment the state’s budget ended up with a billion-dollar shortfall, and that was before John Bel Edwards took us on his massive spending tour de force.
A simple analogy will make this all clear. Let’s say you have a good job with a stable income and a home without a mortgage. You feel good so you decide to take out a big mortgage to renovate your home and build a swimming pool. Suddenly the stock market drops 25% and the country slips into a recession (sound like 2008 doesn’t it). Your boss can’t make ends meet so you get laid off and all you have in current income is a little unemployment coming in for a few months.
Now you look out on that beautiful pool and realize that instead of indulging in that glamorous lifestyle, you wished you had saved for a few years and paid cash for the pool. That mortgage hangs over your whole life, the debt doesn’t go away because you hit hard times. You still owe the bank and now you will have to sell you home in a down market to pay your debt.
In a very similar way Governor Edwards has mortgaged our state’s future with uncontrolled spending on programs that grow every year. Worse, when we arrive at that inevitable downturn, the demand for state support will grow exponentially and there will no way to satiate it.
So think what you will but we are genuinely concerned for the long term ability of our state to respond to an economic retrenchment that is coming just as sure as the sun rises every day.
Spending every last nickel of state funds is a great way to attract voters. Clearly Governor Edwards has not missed that message. He knows that once past re-election his state career is over, so ignoring economic reality is just fine with him. But we citizens of Louisiana will pay a dear price when the day comes to pay off the debts that he has incurred in our name. By that time he will be long gone.