Overly personal criticism of those who oppose the current governor’s proposal for addressing the “fiscal cliff” reminds me of advice I once received from a wise lawyer: Never refer to an opponent by his or her first name during a formal argument, because a breach of formality signals a lack of substance. The fiscal cliff is a deeply substantive problem created by a super-sized bureaucracy and a legal structure that has evolved over decades into a fiscal ball and chain. It will be resolved only by deep structural changes in state government and the legal scheme for taxing and spending. Otherwise, the game of leveraging the Legislature into more spending by threatening to crush higher education and health care will continue.
Please recall that former Gov. Bobby Jindal attempted many structural changes during his first term, including merging struggling universities in the same city, collapsing three higher education boards into a single board, and eliminating certain state offices. Regrettably, too many officials lacked the political will to make those changes, sending a clear message that deep reform on the expenditure side must wait for approach of the dreaded fiscal cliff, if ever. Well, here we are on the edge, and there are no budget tricks to save the day. Rest assured, Gov. John Bel Edwards would welcome an accounting solution to this predicament. The only choices are to downsize government or generate more revenue, or some form of both. To date, most of The Advocate’s reporting is directed to “revenue solutions” (Our Views, Jan. 29) and elected officials having enough “fortitude” (Grace Notes, Jan 29) to unlock dedicated funds or to raise taxes. History has proven time and again that it takes more political will to downsize government than to raise taxes, particularly when the choices are portrayed as pushing voters over a cliff versus making them pay a few more pennies. More substantive and balanced reporting on the problems and solutions would be appreciated.
former executive counsel for Gov. Bobby Jindal