Louisiana’s next governor needs to be a cross between Socrates and Dirty Harry to get a handle on out-of-control government spending, state Treasurer John Kennedy said Wednesday.
“This problem can be fixed,” Kennedy said of state spending practices.
“But it is going to take some spending discipline,” he said. “That is what is lacking.”
Kennedy, who backs U.S. Sen. David Vitter, R-Metairie, for governor, made his comments to the Rotary Club of Baton Rouge.
Socrates was an Athenian philosopher and teacher.
Dirty Harry is a 1971 movie that features Clint Eastwood as an aggressive cop who bends the rules in the name of justice.
The treasurer spent 20 minutes blasting legislative and other spending and what he called the unwillingness of the 2015 Legislature to take a detailed look at the spending side of state budget problems.
Kennedy said the state House and Senate could have taken a thorough look at $7.7 billion in state tax exemptions to weigh their value.
Instead, the treasurer said, lawmakers opted for $857 million in quick fix, revenue-raising measures that may not be enough to head off midyear budget cuts.
“I hope it is going to last six months,” he said.
“We keep pushing the problem off, pushing the problem off, spending more than we take in,” he said.
Kennedy said the state operating budget has risen from $16.5 billion in 2004, the year before recovery money for hurricanes Katrina and Rita began inflating the budget, to $25 billion now — a 52 percent hike.
“Unless you are an Alabama graduate, you can see the direction is up,” he quipped.
One way to save money, he said, is to change practices that allow 22 percent of managers in classified state service to manage one employee, with four employees the average.
“We have way too many generals folks and they are well paid,” Kennedy said.
He said Medicaid spending costs $8 billion per year and is growing at an unsustainable rate.
Just 3 percent of the 1.4 million Medicaid recipients in Louisiana account for 43 percent of the spending, according to the 2014 Medicaid report cited by Kennedy.
He also renewed his calls to trim the state’s 19,000 consulting contracts.
Kennedy was earlier mentioned as a possible 2015 gubernatorial contender but says he has no such plans.
In response to questions, he said he plans to seek re-election this year as state treasurer, not pursue the U.S. Senate seat if Vitter is elected governor.
Others in the race for governor are Republicans Scott Angelle, of Breaux Bridge, a member of the Public Service Commission, and Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne, of Baton Rouge, and Democrat state Rep. John Bel Edwards, of Amite.
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