Our view: Payment’s due on state projects

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May 23, 2012
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May 23, 2012

With only 11 days remaining in its regular session, the Louisiana Legislature has avoided fully addressing a $221 million shortfall. Left unattended that deficit will exceed $300 million next year, placing us further away from living within our collective means, and endorsing a system we cannot afford.

Our society is addicted to government-controlled living. The evidence is revealed as almost half of all Louisianans benefit from one program or another and every taxpayer is impacted.

It could be argued that the nanny state was born in the 1930s, when desperate times called for desperate measures, and several well-intended projects were established to put people back to work. Other services emerged to care for those that had no means of family or community support.

By the 1960s and 1970s social awareness boosted taxpayer-financed public services to levels never before seen. Those numbers grew through the remainder of the 20th century. Families and neighbors stopped watching out for one another in favor of state-run programs. Attitudes of public entitlement overtook the pride of individual accomplishment.

For decades, elected officials chose to protect themselves from public backlash associated with reducing services. They simply passed the problem on to the next Legislature.

At the same time, costs mount for financing multiple services, whether we qualify for benefits or not, and the bill, along with decisions on dealing with the problem get passed along to the next generation.

Louisiana is now No. 15 in the nation for budget shortfalls because we have become reliant on government handouts. Our state even passes regulations that protect some programs over others. As a result education and health care remain the only two undedicated categories.

It is not enough to simply eliminate government jobs or make across-the-board slices that reward non-performing departments with continued survival while damaging those that demonstrate positive results. Like it or not, we must cut entire programs and learn to live without some of the conveniences.

It is time to consider how many state-funded colleges are needed. Most taxpayer-supported schools would better serve their consumer base – students – by becoming competitive private institutions.

Many state-financed health care facilities would better benefit the overall public as medical corporations specializing to the needs of targeted markets.

We could even benefit from corporate jails, incarcerating criminals at lower costs than public institutions.

These and other state programs have become simple luxuries, used to replace complex individual responsibility, but failing to address genuine need.

The bottom line is that we have hit the bottom line.