Edward Pratt: People finally hearing truth about Louisiana budget, and some lawmakers don't like it _lowres

Advocate staff photo by TRAVIS SPRADLING -- Sen. Conrad Appel, R-Metairie, speaks at a meeting of the Joint Legislative Education Committee in 2013.

Travis Spradling

My grandmother would often hold a truth and consequences meeting with me toward the end of some months. Sitting in her rocking chair, she would take a dip of J.W. Garrett snuff between her bottom lip and gums, and then she would ask if there was something I needed for school.

All she wanted was the truth. Then she would give me our truth: that I couldn’t get something at school until her monthly “pension check” came in.

These were tough conversations — actually I just listened — but she would tell me the truth. Sometimes, if the situation was really bad, she would borrow a few dollars from relatives. But even a woman who could not add two and two on a piece of paper knew that borrowing would result in an even tougher situation for us the next month.

At 6, 7, 8 and 9 years old, I knew I had to generate some income. The quick solution in the fall was picking a Quaker grits box full of pecans before and after school and selling it to Mrs. King for 25 cents.

The spring required more creativity. Some solutions included selling bottles to the grocery stores, running errands for neighbors and holding onto the quarter Mr. Parker gave me back when I paid for my haircut. And instead of buying a 5- or 10-cent candy bar, I bought the two-for-a-penny cookies.

My grandmother and I made it work because she was always truthful with a little boy, and I understood our situation.

I recently saw in this newspaper that some politicians were upset with state education officials for expressing the brutal reality of their financial situation. Deep financial cuts could cause layoffs, furloughs, canceling of classes, ending summer school, the possible temporary closure of a school or schools and giant cuts in the Taylor Opportunity Program for Students.

In recent years, our legislators found it easier to dodge the truth and the inevitability of their passive positions on former Gov. Bobby Jindal’s kick-the-can-down-the-road fiscal policies. Now, look where we are.

State Sen. Conrad Appel was particularly disturbed about all the ruckus kicked up by the media coverage of those university leaders’ pronouncements. “This is the first day of the (legislative) process, and the news media is flashing all this stuff up and getting the people all worked up,” the Metairie Republican lawmaker said. “I just don’t think it’s fair.”

Fair? The state is in one of the worst financial situations in its history. How do you soft-pedal that?

Remember when you were a kid and you would cover your ears with your hands and yell to your friend, “I can’t hear you” because he was saying something you didn’t want to hear? Well, this sounds like the same thing.

Do lawmakers understand that many people can’t wrap their heads around a frightening $900 million shortfall? And that taxpayers should be nervous about the specter of a monstrous $2 billion deficit next fiscal year?

Taxpayers should raise hell every day of the legislative session — because many legislators sat mum while the former administration kept rearranging chairs on the fiscal Titanic.

Here’s a really scary thought: What if this were Jindal’s last term? Would these legislators be rolling over yet again to the administration’s bait-and-switch fiscal plans that have left this state with one foot off a fiscal cliff and the other on a banana peel?

As LSU President F. King Alexander said, “The worst situation we could be in is for the session to end, and nothing to be done, and them (faculty, staff and students) to come to us and say, ‘Well, you should have told us that would have happened.’ ”

And Monty Sullivan, the head of the Louisiana Community and Technical College System, said, “We are not going overboard; we’re just telling the truth.”

The people of Louisiana needed more truth over the past few years. The lawmakers needed a conversation with my grandmother, who would say, “That’s all we got.” Maybe they would have been out picking pecans a lot earlier.

Edward Pratt, a south Louisiana freelance writer, can be reached through epratt1972@yahoo.com.