Are you sitting down? We’re about to shock you: Louisiana is looking at a big budget deficit next year.
Unbelievable, right? Three billion dollars in bailout money from the feds via the CARES Act and it’s all gone, and now the state is hundreds of millions of dollars in the hole.
Commissioner of Administration Jay Dardenne warned we will likely face hundreds of millions of dollars in budget cuts for the fiscal year beginning in July.
The Revenue Estimating Conference adopted this forecast ahead of the budget that will be presented in February. Dardenne said unfortunately the budget will have to include cuts to higher ed and healthcare.
“That is just the nature of our system where those are unprotected constitutionally and so they are the biggest parts of the budget and usually wind up taking the biggest hit,” said Dardenne.
The exact number adopted was a 228 million dollar drop from this year, but Dardenne said it’s just too early to know what the real number will be given the economy’s volatility and the chance for more federal assistance.
“We are also waiting to see if we get any money from a new federal stimulus which President Biden suggests is going to happen but obviously Congress is going to have to enact that,” said Dardenne.
Which, of course, Louisiana will get. Probably in the realm of $2 billion worth. And that money will get frittered away just like the $3 billion last year was.
Dardenne said it’s tough to see our budget get slammed by the pandemic considering just a year ago it had been stabilized.
“We were in a position where we thought we would finally be able to plus-up higher education. We had a surplus and we had money that we were going to be able to invest in priorities for Louisiana like early childhood education,” said Dardenne.
One wonders whether Jay Dardenne has any connection to the outside world beyond state government.
“Plus-up” higher education? LSU is essentially operating as Southern New Hampshire University but charging LSU prices. They’re outright ripping off their students by offering an online university and charging full price, and somehow it’s a shame that budget reality might descend?
Louisiana lost 13,000 people last year. Louisiana has 17,000 less kids in its public K-12 schools now than it had a year ago. Louisiana is in the midst of an outmigration binge. Both U-Haul and Allied Van Lines say that of the people migrating in and out of Louisiana better than 55 percent are leaving rather than arriving. That’s reflected in the relative rental prices of moving vans coming in and going out.
Less citizens ought to mean less government. It naturally means a smaller budget. Budget cuts ought to be noncontroversial.
And this should have been recognized last year, when Louisiana got that shower of federal swag. That money should have been put toward one-time projects like roads, port improvements, broadband access and so forth. Instead it was laundered into the state budget to shore up bloated agencies needing cuts for years.
Well, shock of all shocks – our crippled state economy, exacerbated by the continuous economic lockdowns Dardenne’s boss John Bel Edwards stupidly and illegally demands despite the fact the science gets clearer all the time that they do not work to stop the spread of COVID-19, can’t generate enough tax revenue to cover the cost of his bloated state government.
Even with the feds covering most of the cost of his bloated, expanded Medicaid rolls, which he categorically refuses to do a real audit of, there is still hundreds of millions of dollars in waste that could be recaptured. But Edwards won’t do that, because it would mean he stops pandering to his voters.
We already know there are no efficiencies to be had in the state payroll, because of course there aren’t. Go ahead and believe that.
And now they’re cooking up a gas tax hike. With gasoline prices already up 30 cents just in anticipation of the damage Joe Biden is going to do to domestic oil and gas, there are legislators talking about a significant tax increase. Are Dardenne or Edwards noting that maybe with Louisiana’s economy already in the doldrums a tax increase is a bad idea?
Hell no, they’re not saying that.
Instead they’re setting a predicate for a lot more than a gas tax hike. If Biden and the Democrats in Congress don’t come through with that $2 billion, money they’ll pour straight into “plussing-up” more agencies of state government they’d like to grow despite declining demand for their services in a shrinking state, you’ll hear Dardenne’s usual refrain about seniors getting tossed out of nursing homes and state museums getting closed unless the taxpayers consent to paying more for the same lousy governmental product they’re currently getting.
With absolutely no thought whatever to whether those taxpayers ought to get a break from government rather than a royal rogering.
Ed Koch said it best: the people have spoken, and they must be punished. Well, the people of Louisiana spoke when they re-elected Edwards and the punishment continues apace. Be not shocked when these hacks in charge of the state’s budget aren’t squealing for a major tax increase – if not this year thanks to a federal bailout, then certainly next year. Those budget cuts Dardenne is talking about now, he has absolutely no intention of following through on.