Our view: Budget fails to fit state’s future needs

A closing gavel on the Louisiana Legislature’s 2012 regular session had not fallen for this report by press time, but on Sunday the House had agreed to Senate revisions and adopted a $25.6 million budget for fiscal year 2013.

More than $300 million in cuts were restored at the cost of using an excess of $260 million in one-time money and dipping into the Louisiana Budget Stabilization Fund, also known as rainy day funds, of more than $205 million, to make the operating budget balance.

We had hoped that after seeing cuts to education and health care that policymakers would have learned what the Bayou State’s working population already knows – making ends meet is not as easy as it sounds.

Instead, they elected to place a bandage on a cancer in hopes the wound would heal by the next time they meet.

Painful cuts were imposed this year on education and health care with legislators not looking back. Yet, the costs of daily operations, due to duplicity of agencies, accounting for $500 million, continue to rob the state’s only emergency reserves.

For us common folk, it is similar to deciding what to do about the emergency cash in a savings account or stashed in the cookie jar, when there is too much month at the end of the money.

Emergency money, from rainy day funds or one-time cash, is not intended for everyday desires. That cash is for unexpected occurrences. Most people understand that concept.

Unlike a working family, attempting to pay regular bills while living paycheck to paycheck, life is not so for government officials who simply take easy options while ignoring reality.

Using temporary money might satisfy the immediate situation, but it does not solve the problem.

Legislators covering budget cuts this way might be able to go home on time, but are not addressing next year – when the extra money is no longer available.

Long-term control of daily operation budgets would be better accomplished by consolidating bureaucratic agencies that duplicate services at taxpayer expense.

Louisiana cannot afford to dip into emergency funds to temporarily cover expenses that will remain next year. We can afford to streamline administrative government.

Taxpayers cannot afford to pay state operations plus emergency disaster coverage lost by using one-time funds, any more than employers can afford to write a blank check for employees.

Legislators accomplished writing a constitutionally required balanced budget, but it did not answer the long-term reality of everyday expenses.

They failed to learn the secret of making ends meet. Let’s see what they do next year.