If you are of a certain age, you might be happy that Medicare and Social Security were not part of the initial round of cuts produced by the recent deal between the president and Congress.
But there’s a consequence to that: Fewer cuts to those entitlement programs results in focusing on what are called “discretionary” federal programs, which will suffer steeper reductions in money.
And those cuts have a way of trickling down to the local level.
At the Press Club of Baton Rouge, Mayor-President Kip Holden noted briefings he’s received at meetings with mayors around the country about coming reductions in federal aid, including a steep cut predicted in the block grants that Baton Rouge receives for community development.
That is why, he says, Baton Rouge voters have to face the costs of rebuilding bridges and other public works. In a time of anti-tax fervor at all levels, it is difficult to sell voters on tax propositions.
That funding issue also was raised in a meeting of local officials and planners sponsored by the Connect coalition, which is promoting regional planning for the southeastern Louisiana corridor that is anchored at each end by Baton Rouge and New Orleans.
Operating costs for a long-sought passenger rail link between the two cities were cited by Gov. Bobby Jindal when he declined to seek a federal grant for start-up costs. Eric Kalivoda, deputy secretary at the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development, said the state has little appetite for new projects that require operating subsidies.
Also at the conference, Walter Brooks, head of the New Orleans Regional Planning Commission, said cuts in federal transportation funds are possible.
Officials at the state and federal level have bemoaned the fact that gasoline taxes, a key revenue source for transportation projects, have not kept up with inflation and don’t bring in what they used to anyway, because of improvements in fuel efficiency of vehicles.
All this means local sources of revenue — taxes — are going to be required for future projects. That’s a tough issue in a relatively prosperous place such as Baton Rouge, but will be even more difficult in poorer cities and parishes where local revenue is thinner.