You’ve probably heard by now that as a state, collectively, we are on the precipice of a very steep and dangerous cliff. I don’t buy it.
This so-called cliff could easily be avoided if Gov. John Bel Edwards would simply renew the one-cent temporary sales tax that is set to expire this summer. But the governor has instead decided to push for other taxes targeting businesses and personal income. Not surprisingly, he’s a Democrat.
I’m confident the governor will eventually agree to renewing the temporary sales tax, and all will be fine, and the talk of the calamity from falling off a cliff will end up being nothing more than a bunch of hype and fear-mongering. That’s how Democrats roll. They manufacture a crisis hoping it will scare the electorate enough that it will forward their agenda. Sometimes it works. This time it shouldn’t. “Never let a good crisis go to waste,” former Obama Chief Of Staff Rahm Emanuel once said.
But for argument's sake, let’s call the governor’s bluff. Would we really see the type of carnage predicted if the state had to cut one billion dollars from the state budget?
Only three short years ago, Gov. Bobby Jindal’s final budget came in at $27.2 billion. This year’s budget is $29.6 billion. As a state, we are spending $2.5 billion more than we were three years ago. A considerable amount of that increase came from the growth of federal funds resulting in Edwards' expansion of Medicaid under Obamacare. The state got $8.9 billion in federal money under Jindal’s final budget. This year, we received $10.3 billion from the feds. So of that $2.5 billion increase, the feds are picking up the tab for $1.4 billion. But this means in just three years under Edwards, we’re now spending an additional $1.1 billion in state funds.
What the fiscal cliff alarmists are telling us is that if we go back to the same budget we were under just three years ago, we will find ourselves free-falling head over heels off of a very high and dangerous cliff. Really? Did running government get that much more expensive in just three years? Does it really cost an extra $3 million more per day to run the state than it did just three years ago? And they tell us there’s no room for cutting. They say cutting will devastate our schools, health care, and the poor.
I don’t doubt for a second the fiscal cliff prophets are sincere. The world view they hold is of government as the arbiter of all. It must rein in the greedy and provide salvation for the needy. Government must be strong, comprehensive and far-reaching. Otherwise, the greedy will run free and the needy will go without. They dare you to give an example of fat in government and what should be cut.
But what they don’t realize is government’s ecosystem is the problem. It’s built for fraud, waste and excess. For example, taxpayers were paying Trooper Daryl Thomas $240,000 a year to write tickets out of the Kenner-based Troop B. That’s an obscene salary in and of itself. A Fox-8 News investigation revealed Thomas was at home while running up tens of thousands of overtime dollars. This kind of stuff would rarely happen in the bottom line-focused private sector. Spending other people’s money is so much easier than spending your own.
We’ll never know what would happen if the state operated under the same budget as it did three years ago because the governor is bluffing. I’m not arguing for one billion in cuts. What I am saying is if we did call the governor’s bluff and were forced to cut a billion, it would not be nearly as bad as the doomsday predictions. My advice to the governor: Just renew the one-cent sales tax and move onto your next manufactured crisis.
Email Dan Fagan at email@example.com.