Spend it wisely
From all indications, the REC is going to be revising the revenue estimate upward-perhaps substantially. This would come on the heels of the upward revision (by $600 million) the REC made in February, after slashing the estimate by $900 million last October in the wake of the hurricanes. It is no secret that sales tax collections-outside of Orleans, St. Bernard and Plaquemines Parishes-have increased significantly, undoubtedly influenced by replacement purchases from those who suffered losses. Another likely area of revenue forecast increase is in the category of oil and gas revenues. Crude oil prices have soared even more since February, and natural gas prices remain high. When the REC meets, a revised estimate in the $150-$300 million range would not be surprising.
The REC's job is to forecast revenues accurately. The Legislature decides how those revenues will be used, with significant input from the governor's office. There will be a mighty temptation to spend the "found" money on perks and projects that would ingratiate legislators with constituents back home. After all, 2007 is an election year, and what better way to increase popularity than by handing out some checks and cutting a few ribbons? While the Legislature will probably not be bold and arrogant enough to use the new money to restore its revered urban and rural slush funds, it can certainly find places to hide the lollipops and pork in the massive state budget. For openers, if the media are interested, they can look at the Department of Economic Development (DED) budget, since legislators love to stash projects never requested by DED in its budget. Almost any grant or project can be called "economic development."
Before the Legislature starts committing revenues that may not be available in the future to pork or recurring expenditures, legislators should think seriously about spending any new dollars in areas that can stabilize state finances and provide one-time assistance where it is needed in the wake of the storms.
Legislation has been introduced that would save the taxpayers almost $2 billion over time by paying down the unfunded accrued liability (UAL) of the state retirement systems. By putting up $100 million of the "new" money now, the Legislature could save the taxpayers almost 20 times as much in the future. Wouldn't that be a wiser use of the money than making grants to fairs and festivals, or starting up a new non-profit organization to create jobs for a favored few?
Another bill that has been introduced would essentially create a FEMA repayment fund. The legislation calls for putting aside money now to be used to pay the bills we will get from FEMA for the state's share of debris removal, reconstruction and disaster relief. Why not take some of this money we didn't expect to have and put it aside to help pay some huge bills we know will be coming our way soon?
If the higher-than-expected revenues are used as "smart money," the taxpayers' best interest will be served and the state's fiscal future will be brighter. But no one is betting "smart money" on that happening. If the past is a prologue, the new money will go to new programs, more hiring, and the hog-slaughtering party where the favored legislators pledge their fealty and carry home their pork.
Subscribe Today and Save!!!
St. Charles Herald-Guide is an award-winning newspaper that covers all aspects of St. Charles Parish - from schools and parish government news to social events, features on our local residents and sports.
Order your subscription today!
Steve Todd may have been the last participant in Saturday’s Bridge Run to cross the...
Around 50 children and their parents shuffled in through the doorway at the...
A 2002 BMW, 1999 Mercedes ML3 and a 2007 Ford F150 are among the 29 vehicles that...
Employees of Home Depot, along with members of the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post...
Nearly five months after 23-year-old Ramal Ellis was found shot to death behind the...
Grumpy's is serving up your all time favorites in St Charles Parish, from Seafood to Shakes. LENTEN SPECIALS ARE HERE! Dine in or call ahead and pick up your order to-go, phone orders welcome!
Voters will decide next West Bank at-large council member on Saturday - 1213 views
On Saturday, voters will decide between three residents who are vying to fill the St. Charles Parish Council seat that represents the entire West Bank. Each of the candidates for the Division B at-large seat say that hurricane protection is the most pressing issue facing the area, but have differing views on the best way to achieve that goal.