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Advocate staff photo by STACY GILL -- Stephen Waguespack, president of the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry, motions to a graphic on the state budget July 14 during a visit to the Zachary Rotary Club. Waguespack shared insight into the recent Louisiana Legislative sessions concerning Louisiana budget woes and taxes.

STACY GILL

The causes of Louisiana's fiscal rot have been diagnosed over and over: The repeal of the Stelly Plan. Rampant carve-outs in the tax code. And the dedications that protect most budget lines from cuts, and thus leave the same few areas, primarily health care and higher education, at perpetual risk.

Louisiana Association of Business and Industry president Stephen Waguespack included widespread dedications in his own recent list of obstacles to smart budgeting (although much of his list is different from mine).

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Yet in the same column, he made a strange proposal: If the Legislature goes ahead and replaces the $880 million or so in revenue that will disappear once a temporary tax hike expires June 30, he wrote, lawmakers should add even more dedications. Twenty percent, he proposed, should go to the TOPS scholarships, which would see an 80 percent drop in funding under the doomsday budget that Gov. John Bel Edwards introduced last week. Forty percent would go to transportation projects, and the remaining 40 percent to "annually address the fiscal cliff."

All are valid priorities, and the idea of at least somewhat shielding TOPS, which has become a major bargaining chip between Edwards and the Republicans who run the Legislature, may have particular appeal to politicians. Several weighed in on Twitter in support of Waguespack's idea. State Sen. Rick Ward, R-Port Allen, wrote that "as much as I think we need to take a hard look at moving away from dedicated funds I think this may be one that should be considered!" State Rep. Tanner Magee, R-Houma, chimed in with a "same for me."

Waguespack wrote on Twitter that, while some dedications make sense, others don't. But the truth is that there's a reason each of those dedications exists, and has survived constant calls to give officials more budgetary flexibility and spread the pain. Each has its own constituency.

And until the people who run government develop the fortitude to make some of those constituencies unhappy, it makes no sense to even talk about restricting their options even more.

Follow Stephanie Grace on Twitter, @stephgracela.