Budget myths need to be put to rest

By C.B. Forgotston

April 01, 2011 at 9:17 am  | Mobile Reader | Pring this storyPrint 

It is long past time to put to rest a couple of myths about the state budget used by governors and leges to deceive the public. These myths, according to the leges, “tie their hands” when it comes to reducing state spending and the size of government.

Myth 1
For years now, we’ve been told that most of the state’s budget is federal dollars.  This is done to deceive the public into thinking that state funds are not the source of the out-of-control growth of state government.  In other words, these politicians would have us believe that citizens of Louisiana aren’t paying for the excessive spending.
First, citizens of Louisiana also pay federal taxes and thus are a source of those federal dollars.

Second, all Federal dollars don’t have to be accepted by the state. One of the reasons that we have so many programs that are now funded solely by state dollars is because the Feds provided the start-up funding or required only a small match of state dollars to get them started. Then the feds dropped their contribution entirely.  In many case we had been warned this would happen in “x” years.

Louisiana didn’t drop the programs; it just kept funding them with state dollars.

Former State Rep. V. J. Bella, a longtime member of the House Appropriations Committee, was the loudest voice against such start-up programs.  He warned that, when the federal funds were eliminated, the state would be left “holding the bag” for these programs.  What Bella warned of in the 70s and 80s has come back to haunt the taxpayers of Louisiana to the tune of billions of dollars.

Third, according to a report in the Baton Rouge Morning Advocate on Saturday,  March 12: “The [proposed budget for fiscal year beginning July 1] consists of $13.9 billion in state funds and nearly $11 billion in federal funds.”   Thus, a majority of the spending is from state funds.

Myth 2
The politicians tell us that whenever there is a decline in state revenues and a corresponding need to reduce state spending the only places that can be cut are healthcare and higher education. They say it is because of our state’s constitution.

Last February when the “Roads Scholar” presented the current year’s state budget to the leges, it had been reduced significantly, but made no further cuts (other than the prior mid-year cuts) to healthcare or higher education.  When the leges finished with the budget, they had added $2.8 billion in spending, but funding for both healthcare and higher education had been substantially cut.

There was no change in the state constitution before or after the budget was drafted that protected healthcare and higher education.

On Friday, “The Scholar” presented the state budget to the leges.  It reduced state spending by approximately $1 billion. The reductions in spending were throughout the state budget and did not all come or even disproportionately come from healthcare and higher e0ducation.

Again, there was no constitutional change before this budget was crafted that protected healthcare or higher education.

A challenge
There are a lot of lawyers in the Louisiana Legislature.  This is a challenge to them to either cite the provision(s) in the state constitution that are “tying your hands” and thus requiring cuts to healthcare and higher education whenever there is a revenue shortfall or stop perpetuating these myths.

Your perpetuation of the myth serves only to show how little you know about the document by which the people of Louisiana outline and limit your responsibilities and duties.

The non-lawyers in the lege, are challenged to: (1) get yourselves lawyers to provide you with the necessary constitutional provisions by which your “hands are tied”; (2) read the constitution for yourselves or (3) simply stop speaking about that which you don’t know.

I’m looking forward to their acceptance of this challenge.




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