Budget tips for lawmakers

Louisiana legislators have begun their attempt to balance a $24.9 billion budget with a $1.6 billion deficit. Hard reductions are in store. The question is where to cut and how to institute changes without making anyone upset. The short answer is that it cannot be done.

Expectations regarding elected members of the state House and Senate are that each one will try to protect his or her own pet programs. The reality is that the needs of Louisiana as a whole are more important than the wants of individual special interest groups.

According to the Institute for Truth in Accounting, each Louisiana taxpayer carries an annual state tax burden of $19,800. State law requires a balanced budget, but the truth is that the state does not make enough money to pay its bills.

Increasing taxes to meet financial commitments would be the wrong decision, and one that taxpayers cannot afford.

In business, it is foolish to automatically boost prices when sales are down, especially if a customer base does not have the added income to cover costs as they exist.

The same is true in government budgeting. Most taxpayers cannot afford paying out more, especially when their income has not increased.

When families have budget problems, many simply sit down at the kitchen table, take out the bills and the checkbook and make the hard decisions regarding what they can do without.

Reducing costs is not that difficult once priorities are set and one realizes many wise cuts are ones that eliminate “wants” rather than meeting needs.

The average person knows that carrying a lunch to work is less expensive than eating out every day. Designer clothing is nice, but when the budget is tight it is time to simplify and think durability over fashion. A new electronic gadget is not a need to anyone other than the person selling it. And planning travel to cover chores and commitments in one trip rather than making back and forth excursions does save both gallons of gasoline and dollars.

While most families making either $40,000 or $400,000 a year recognize their responsibility to live within their means, government bodies often forget that same understanding must apply to them as well, no matter who gets upset.

Perhaps the first budget item should be investing in a kitchen table for legislators.