With apologies to Charles Dickens, Scrooge has been reincarnated in the form of House Speaker Taylor Barras. He sits in his office and sends his Grinch, otherwise known as Appropriations Chair Cameron Henry, to do his dirty work. It is a crying shame to distort a process that has served Louisiana well for many years — the Revenue Estimating Conference. The Conference is legally required to make estimates of the revenue that will be available for the Legislature to use to invest in the critical needs of our state. It is not designed to address budget issues as that is the purview of the Legislature. In the recent meeting, Chairman Henry was the lone no vote against recognizing additional revenue that not one, not two, but three economists agreed would be available.
During the 2018 Legislative session, the Legislature voted to place certain items in the budget bill subject to recognition of additional revenue and approval of the Joint Committee on the Budget. The law that created the Revenue Estimating process requires it to review and revise, as necessary, the revenue estimate for the state by the end of December each year. Chairman Henry’s no vote on the new estimate means that critical needs of the state for which revenue is actually available cannot be met. The list is too long for me to detail in this letter. If Chairman Henry opposes one or more of the items, he could legally discuss them and ask the Joint Budget Committee to defer action on them. Surely he does not oppose everything on the list.
The Conference is to meet again on Dec. 10. Louisiana would be well served if Scrooge Barras attends and votes on the revenue matter. There will be opportunities later for Grinch Henry to address items that members of Joint Budget may choose not to fund.