State representative's letter to the editor: This is our first honest, 'no nonsense' budget in eight years _lowres

Rep. Ted James, D-Baton Rouge 

State Rep. Rick Edmonds, R-Baton Rouge, recently wrote to claim there’s no budget crisis and that the governor’s hiding hundreds of millions.

That $900 million state general fund increase he complains about? Thank former Gov. Bobby Jindal for pushing part of last year’s health care payments into this year. Now, for the first time in eight years, Louisiana can see what an honest budget looks like. No smoke. No mirrors. No fund raids. No one-time money. No midyear budget cuts. No nonsense.

This is what actual fiscal responsibility looks like, Louisiana. I agree that we need structural tax and spending reforms, but first, we need to keep hospitals open, universities viable and TOPS funded.

The fact is there’s a $600 million hole in this governor’s honest budget. That means even deeper cuts without more revenue. Some legislators must understand that we’ve been through eight years of government cutting. Tens of thousands laid off. Agencies sold. Services reduced and eliminated.

There’s nothing left to cut but meat and bone. No one’s holding TOPS, or any other program, hostage. The revenue simply isn’t there. Where else should we cut? Neither Edmonds nor any of his allies in the House have suggested where the budget could be cut to fully fund TOPS. Or fully fund K-12 education. Or our colleges and universities. That means LSU and Southern University. That means the 343 TOPS recipients in Edmonds’ district will lose about half their money.

As for income taxes, I support Gov. John Bel Edwards’ proposal. The governor wants to partially close a tax loophole that gives the top 26 percent of taxpayers a few hundred dollars a year. Closing that loophole even halfway — that’s the plan — would cost the richest, our millionaires, a few thousand a year.

Some of those millionaires are passionate about that “excess itemized deduction” and the money it means to them. This newspaper even reported that one Baton Rouge millionaire told a Baton Rouge representative that a vote for the loophole would trigger a recall petition.

I will continue to prioritize support for cutting corporate giveaways, but these votes are as difficult as they are necessary. I’ll vote for Southern and LSU and TOPS and health care. Edmonds and others can ignore the real problems in Louisiana.

Ted James

state representative

Baton Rouge