SADOW: The Louisiana Senate Threatens The Fiscally Conservative Bills

Louisiana’s Republican voters need to have an intervention with some of their party’s state senators over their grasshopper free-spending preferences, a task with which their party’s more conservative state representatives can assist.

Earlier this month, the House delivered a general appropriations bill to the Senate that recognized the state’s spending cap and sensibly prepared for a future of reduced revenues. The false economy produced by catastrophically-high debt spending from Democrat-controlled Washington (now starting to punish the American people with historically high inflation, negative relative wage growth, and lower workforce participation with a double-dip recession in the offing) artificially inflated state tax collections, with a threat ahead in about two years when the sales tax increase of 2016, modified in 2018, will roll off the books. This means the state, starting in fiscal year 2024, will see a retrenchment in the hundreds of millions of dollars annually.

The House version of HB 1 wisely adhered to the state’s expenditure limit that filters out the false economy, meaning that forecast surpluses for this and presumably next fiscal years can’t in total be spent in FY 2024 without a supermajority in both legislative chambers to override. Instead, the plan increased paying down more of constitutionally-mandated reductions in pension liabilities, which in turn frees up future dollars for state and local governments, particularly school districts.

But now Senate leaders, Republicans all and particularly Pres. Page Cortez, egged on big-spender-in-chief Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards, have articulated that they want to bust the spending cap to make new salary commitments to educators, an especially unsustainable proposition with the fiscal cliff looming. They stupidly argue that local school boards may not give pay raises – or make them too low or with disparities across districts – with the savings from accelerated unfunded accrued liabilities payment, as if the same electoral demand for raises they seem to perceive acting upon them won’t also wash over elected board members, prompting them into action.

As bad, one palliative for the coming fiscal pain that would progessively decrease taxpayer dollars thrown away to make movies – the economic activity from which doesn’t come close to paying back the people – the Senate also looks to try to obviate. A Senate committee reworked HB 562 by GOP Speaker Clay Schexnayder, after committee and floor changes in the House had shaped it to cut most of the waste, and most of the positive House alterations were done away with. Before the reversals, within a decade well over $100 a million annually likely would have been saved and used better than the current $13,000-plus per part-time jobs that taxpayers pay for. That would make money available that in a few years could translate into hefty pay hikes for teachers, or whatever other purpose our elected leaders think is better.

Fortunately, conservative representatives who have banded into two caucuses can put a stop to this unwarranted profligacy. The Conservative Caucus so far has leveraged Schexnayder, whose sympathies lie with Cortez and reckless spending, into better budgeting because its membership is more than a third of the House and therefore can veto any attempt to raise the spending cap. The Freedom Caucus, a subset of the Conservative Caucus membership of whom only a few are known publicly, apparently has been most vocal in putting on the brakes to the film tax credit and have an advantage in that if HB 562 doesn’t pass the credit sunsets in two years.


The Conservative Caucus needs to stay strong in forcing the current form of HB 1 into passage, even if that means not passing it this session and needing a special session to produce an operating budget. And its members  must insist on restoring the House’s version of HB 562 as then it will take only a few more Republican votes to produce a majority to do that (Democrats typically unanimously have supported the credit, with almost all of its proceeds accruing to the rich and famous of Hollywood), even though if restored they should vote against it (although they seemingly won’t have enough votes to defeat it as would be best, at least they will have ensured a less-objectionable version will have made it into law).

Caucus members’ problem is they receive insufficient backup from the Senate. Genuine conservatives are proportionally fewer there, mostly concentrated among the newer Republicans. They may not have the numbers to keep HB 1 in its superior form, and probably not enough to stop the inferior version of HB 562 from leaving the chamber.

That’s something that ultimately voters may end up having to fix this fall, after the damage may have been done. Cortez and his ilk largely comprise the term-limited cohort who voters can replace with actual fiscal conservatives. Let’s just hope those outgoing senators not of sober spending mind don’t throw a going-away party for Edwards which the people will foot the bill for many years to come.



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