We recently learned the state of Louisiana for the third year in a row produced a budget surplus. Good thing, right? Wrong. It’s borderline scandalous.
Gov. John Bel Edwards recently reported the state had produced a $500 million-dollar surplus. Last year, it was $308 million, and $122 million the year before. Under Edwards, Louisiana has collected close to $1 billion more than it needed in new taxes in the past three years.
And yet most all we’ve heard from the first-term governor is hard-to-believe sob stories from the Democrat crying wolf and demanding more money from taxpayers. He conjured up story after story warning us how calamity, destruction, and devastation would hit if we didn’t part with more of our money. He warned that LSU football and TOPs funding would disappear, old people would be kicked out of nursing homes, lack of access to food stamps would end up causing people to starve, single moms would suffer, hospitals would close, and all hell would break loose. Edwards described our state budget problems as a crisis pushing us toward a fiscal cliff.
Edwards was very much like a teen trying to come up with new, creative stories designed to lure money out of his tenderhearted parents. His stories were suspicious at best. Only those blinded by big-government ideology fell for them. But fooled they were, so taxes went up, way up.
The media played along with Edwards’ charade, and with help from some Republican lawmakers, he pushed through tax increases totaling more than $7 billion during the lifetime of the rate hikes. The increase in taxes for this past year raised $600 million in new money, and yet we had a $500 million surplus. You don’t have to be a math whiz to know the state raised taxes too much.
Living under Edwards for Louisiana taxpayers is like going out to eat, then checking your receipt once home and realizing the restaurant overcharged you.
Edwards’ doom and gloom prognosis of how much the state needed in new taxes changed constantly. He kept moving the goal post. We heard the state’s deficit was $2 billion, then $1.5 billion, then $900 million and finally $600 million. He was bluffing. “Surplus-gate” could have been much worse. Edwards originally pushed for twice as many taxes during his parade of special sessions. Fortunately, Republicans agreed only to half of the governor’s demands.
We’ll never know how much the state really needed or if it could have kept providing necessary services without raising taxes. You never know if you can live within your means unless you try to live within your means.
The budget the governor submitted is nothing more than a wish list of what Edwards claims the state needed to run government. The state budget before Edwards was at $27 billion. It’s now $34 billion. That’s a 25% increase in state spending under Edwards.
Some $5 billion of the new spending came from the federal government, mostly as a result of the governor expanding Medicaid under Obamacare. The expansion provided free health care for many citizens, including some able-bodied adults. Eventually, the state will be forced to pick up a greater share of those exorbitant Medicaid expansion costs.
But Louisiana is also spending $2 billion more in state money since Edwards took office.
Edwards growing government and raising hundreds of millions in new and more taxes than needed has come with a cost. Louisiana is the only state in the country to lose jobs over the past year. The nation’s GDP has grown twice as fast as that of our state, and a startling 10,000 people have left Louisiana for better economies in other states since Edwards was elected.
Not only has Edwards hiked taxes more than needed, he also went back on his word when, during the campaign he promised not to raise them at all.
Primary election day is three weeks from Sunday. If Edwards wins enough votes to avoid a runoff, we should expect four more years of continued government growth, a sluggish private sector economy, and the state continuing to overcharge taxpayers.
Email Dan Fagan at email@example.com.