On Thursday the Revenue Estimating Conference (REC) met to decide whether some funds should be designated as General Fund revenue which would effectively allow them to be immediately spent. As I have said before the REC is one of the best structures of state government as it allows for a check on the use of taxpayer money against the insatiable desire by governors to spend every cent that comes in the door.
There are four members of the Revenue Estimating Conference; the Governor, the President of the Senate, the Speaker of the House, and an outside economist. For funds to be designated to be available to spend through the General Fund all four must unanimously vote to do so.
At this REC meeting Appropriations Chairman Cameron Henry, sitting on behalf of Speaker Barras, voted no, blocking the governor from spending the subject funds. Some in the media immediately wrote that this is surely the first sign of the specter of Washington style politics descending on Louisiana. Without saying so, they made clear that this vote is justification for their support of the old way of doing business in which the legislature has always deferred to the governor an overwhelming control as to who led the Senate and the House, and, in so doing, the committee structure. An old way in which governors have been granted power far in excess of the intention of our Constitution.
I take a different view, this vote is a sign that the people through their elected members of the legislature have had enough of the old school way of doing the people’s business, the way that many in the media seem to cling to. It is a sign of a declaration of legislative independence, a sign of an elected body finally demanding to become a true co-equal branch of government. And that independence is something that will be positive in a state that has been held back for so long by regimes of governors who either were incapable of leading us forward or for whom their personal politics were more important to them than doing good for the people.
I understand that so many in media have strong liberal beliefs, beliefs that have been manifested through the philosophy and policies of social populism whose roots date back to the late 19th century. I understand that legislative independence threatens the very liberal foundation of the same social populism that has overshadowed our state for so long. But through the ballot box the people have said that enough is enough, that co-equal branches of government are far better than one man or woman rule. They have said that the old ways have held us back, now they want to move forward.
This small event, marking things to come, is a clear signal to the liberal establishment including the many in the media that a new day has dawned and that taxpayers are demanding that their money be spent in a manner that is both effective and efficient. We now live in a state in which prosperity for the people is more important than liberal policies that have served politicians well but have left so many trapped in poverty.
No, this is not Washington style politics at play; this is a new day for Louisiana, a new day that perhaps marks the end of the insidious grasp of social populism once and for all, as it is abandoned to the ash heap of history.