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Senators Mike Walsworth, left, R-West Monroe, and Jim Fannin, R-Jonesboro, in a scene during activity in the Louisiana Senate, Thursday, April 20, 2017.

ADVOCATE STAFF PHOTO BY TRAVIS SPRADLING

There might be competition for the title of expert in phony numbers at the State Capitol, but a contender would be Jim Fannin, of Jonesboro.

Now-senator Fannin was promoted by his north Louisiana constituents; he was previously state Rep. Fannin, and for two terms chairman of the House Appropriations Committee.

In slavish devotion to the tax cuts and financial gimmicks embraced by then-Gov. Bobby Jindal, Fannin’s budgets set new records in dishonest numbers, even for the State Capitol.

Now, Fannin argues that things aren’t all that bad.

He was among several lawmakers pushing back at the budget numbers facing the state in the new year, including an estimated $1.5 billion shortfall.

The numbers presented by experts from the Division of Administration included an inflation adjustment, and Fannin said the lawmakers typically don’t fund those anyway.

“It would be a lot better to have real numbers, rather than these inflated projected numbers that just scare everybody,” Fannin said.

It was the wrong thing to say to Barry Dussé, director of the governor's Office of Planning and Budget.

He should not have had to explain this to Fannin, although the fact that he had to says a lot about how we got into this budget fix. State law, made not by the Division officials but by the Legislature, mandates expense projections in the calculation Dussé said.

“This is not any type of proposal from the administration. It's based on arithmetic, and the items included are in statute,” Dussé said. “Some of these will not come to fruition. Some of them will. This is just a tool for everybody to look at.”

It was a telling exchange.

We certainly don’t agree with everything done by the Legislature or new Gov. John Bel Edwards over the past year or so, but this ridiculous denial of the realities of the budget problem is chronic among legislators who ought to know better — none more so than Fannin.

You can, as lawmakers frequently do, fail to fund things. The Jindal-Fannin method was to ignore inflation, throw one-time money into accounts to cover recurring expenses. That was a recipe for disaster. The disaster has now occurred.

The administration’s estimate of a $1.5 billion shortfall is probably not perfect. Some expenditures don't have to be made, and you can cut an agency back just by letting inflation whittle away at its budget.

But the Division's estimates strike us as a heck of a lot more believable than the numbers produced during the reign of voodoo economics at the Appropriations Committee over the preceding decade.

And Fannin says the new administration is at fault for scaring everybody?