That many conservative members of the state House have balked at Gov. Bobby Jindal’s budget is a telling commentary on just how badly state finances have been managed under this governor.
And it’s just as telling that business lobbyists — portrayed as greedy special interests by Jindal as late as last month — protested the relatively minor revenue increases pushed by the “fiscal hawks” in the House. It’s as if those lobbyists haven’t been the beneficiaries all along of tax cuts and exemptions.
The hawks’ proposed exemption cuts were mostly a minor clawback of giant subsidies, breaks and grants showered on what Jindal used to call the special interests.
And it’s as if the business community simply does not care about the havoc in state universities created by the Jindal cuts over the last five years, and the almost certain prospect of more cuts if Jindal’s budget for fiscal 2014 is approved.
By any standard of fiscal and rhetorical integrity, the fiscal hawks are far ahead of Jindal. Still, constructing a 70-vote majority in the House, two-thirds of members being needed for revenue increases of any kind, forced the fiscal hawks to retreat from some elements of their original plan.
We doubt that we like all of any eventual budget compromise. The hawks are against using one-time money, or a great deal of it, in the operating budget. The reality is that some new money must be raised to make a revised budget work.
Raising revenues, even through curtailing overly generous tax exemptions, is a political process that will require two stages: a vote for the hawks’ compromise in the House, and collaboration in the Senate on a final package. That would return to the House for what is likely to be the key vote in the session.
A crash diet is usually not as healthy as one carefully planned. But with Jindal’s intransigence and outright hostility to funding key state priorities, Louisiana is far from the coalition needed to reform government finance in textbook fashion.
The hawks’ plans are hardly perfect, representing the difficulties of cobbling together a two-thirds vote in the House among disparate interests and with Democrats and Republicans trying to work across party lines.
While the devil may lurk in the details, as always, the hawks’ efforts to find a budget consensus deserve plaudits, not criticism from Jindal and a business community that once backed universities as a key element in long-term economic development for Louisiana.