The fiscal cliff and the state budget have had a lot of press in the last month. Everyone knows there is a gap between revenues and desired, not necessary, spending, and everyone knows there is a political impasse on how to resolve the problem.
There have been a few articles in The Advocate that shed some light on the issue. One article discussed our Medicaid program and mentioned the possibility of copays by beneficiaries. That article pointed out that one-third of Louisiana residents are Medicaid beneficiaries.
There was another article discussing the business and employment situation in Louisiana. According to that article, Louisiana’s labor participation rate is just under 59 percent. There was an article that highlighted tax exemptions and tax holidays and a few about the ever-present special session for which our incompetent legislators get paid overtime to do what they refused to do on straight time. And there was one that mentioned the pork projects legislators feel the need to have to show their constituents they have enough value to be reelected. These articles help highlight the fact that we have both revenue and spending problems. The first two should point out that about 60 percent of the population cannot take care of themselves and their families as well as the other 40 percent of the population. Everyone has to contribute in some way, no matter how little — even the legislators.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, prices have increased 4 percent from 2015 to 2018. Our state budget in 2016 was $25.1 billion. A 4 percent increase would be $26.1 billion. The proposed budget is $29.1 billion. Some of that increase, $1.8 billion, is from Medicaid expansion and is covered by federal dollars. Most of the rest is from the irresponsibility of spending other people’s money.
The 2016 budget with a 4 percent increase and $1.8 billion added equals $27.9 billion. Our “shortfall" is desired spending beyond that. A “shortfall" of $1 billion is 4 percent of the 2016 budget and 3.5 percent of the proposed budget. I would boldly state, without knowledge, that there is no department in state government that could not continue to function just as effectively as last year with a 4 percent budget reduction. That would be the responsible solution, so it surely won’t be the final answer.
When we see legislators go into a special session to resolve the problem and refuse their pay, we will have our first indication that they consider our money almost as important as theirs and that they are willing to act responsibly. What are the odds that will ever happen?