In Baton Rouge as well as Washington, budgets sent by the administration to the legislative branch are often considered dead on arrival. But rarely has a chief executive been as eager to bury his own proposal as Gov. John Bel Edwards was Monday.
The endless fiscal dance between the Democratic governor and Republican-controlled state House entered a new phase when Edwards unveiled a plan based on a billion-dollar drop-off in revenue, then noted — correctly, I'm sure — that it's not a budget even the most conservative of lawmakers would want to see enacted. He sure doesn’t, he reiterated for what feels like the millionth time.
Among the specifics: The proposed budget would cut $660 million from health programs, which would trigger much deeper shortfalls due to lost federal matching funds. The TOPS college scholarships would lose $233 million, and college campuses and need-based Go Grants would take additional hits.
The proposal, which Edwards characterized as "honest" but "ugly," meets his constitutional obligation to introduce a spending plan that only includes recognized revenue based on current law. His pitch is the same as it has been all along: That the House should agree sooner rather than later to an outline to replace money that will disappear when temporary taxes drop off the books June 30.
Gov. John Bel Edwards released a budget proposal for next year that accounts for the expiration of $1 billion in temporary sales taxes.
The only other option is to go through the regular session, adopt a doomsday budget or don't adopt one at all, then scramble at the last minute come June. And all those constituents who have to make plans in the meantime, the college administrators and students, and the private hospital partners and their employees whose jobs hang in the balance? Well, whatever.
The political side to Monday's presentation to legislative budgeters was double-edged.
Edwards wants to make sure voters know what could happen if lawmakers don't act. Some of the governor's political foes surely want to use the document to cast Edwards as the one who proposed all these painful cuts — which, for all his efforts to add context, is technically true. We are, after all, staring down an election.
First though, comes that dreaded June 30 fiscal cliff. So the question for today is, does seeing these numbers in stark black and white bring the cliff any closer into sight?