OUR VIEW: Time for state to fix budget shortfall
What happens when you promise Paul you’ll rob Peter and pay Paul with Peter’s money but Peter, with swollen eyes and missing teeth and pockets turned inside out, says he’s tapped? Do you kill Peter? Do you kill Paul?
Of course, Paul knows you’re robbing Peter, and while he may be a bit empathetic, Paul’s job isn’t to look after the well-being of Peter. Paul is still mending his fractured jawbone, still trying to find his new place in life after state government took the assault to him day after day after day. Now the governor is like, well, is there someone else we can rob?
Louisiana’s current year general-fund budget, which runs through June, is running at a $172 million deficit, The Advocate reported. And then, Gov. Bobby Jindal, trying to just keep the dam leaks plugged for a little while longer, asked State Treasurer John Kennedy for a $40 million loan – necessary so that the state can pay its higher-education bills in May.
“The general fund is in cash flow deficit as of today and is currently having to inter-fund borrow to meet daily cash flow needs. So the fulfillment of any seed funding request at this point would require the Treasury to inter-fund borrow that much further in order to meet that new ‘borrowing,’ ” Jason Redmond, deputy state treasurer, was quoted by The Advocate.
All inter-fund borrowing to aid the general fund must be repaid by Aug. 14. The Jindal administration is attributing the gap to timing – some of the one-time monies pledged for higher education during the last legislative session don’t arrive until the end of the fiscal year, but bills must be paid on a month-to-month basis. So, yeah, float us the money and we’ll repay the loan on payday.
That this news broke on the day the House began considering House Bill 1, the state budget legislation for 2014-15, should serve as forewarning to lawmakers: Stop the gimmicks, and place the proverbial can in the recycling bin.
Logic dictates that using one-time money to fund recurring expenses – regularly, higher education – is lousy patchwork that does not solve the underlying issue. It has become the mark of a desperate body paralyzed from instilling meaningful, cost-saving reform even as solutions are proposed annually – including some by Houma-Thibodaux area lawmakers.
Projections have begun to emerge parallel to that “common sense” Louisiana’s politicians always tout. The independent Legislative Fiscal Office released a report last month anticipating that $982.5 million in state funding will need a new revenue source in the 2016 fiscal year. That would equate to 4 percent of this year’s proposed spending plan.
Emblazon a new logo on the statehouse: a can on a tee, being struck by a foot. Paint it black and gold, so the new and true state crest won’t ruffle the forsaken pelican’s feathers.