As has become customary, Jeff Sadow’s latest column concerning Gov. John Bel Edwards is devoid of facts. Though the governor’s detractors may not like it, Louisiana’s revenue has stabilized and our economy has improved under Edwards’ leadership. Gone are the days of using gimmicks and one-time money to balance the budget. Common sense now prevails. Here are the facts about the governor’s proposed budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1 (FY20):
1) The Revenue Estimating Conference was created constitutionally to realistically estimate revenue upon which the Legislature could rely in approving expenditures of state government. This estimate is based on the recommendations of two state economists whose job is to project revenue. Never in its almost three decades of existence has the REC ignored these recommendations in estimating an official forecast.
2) REC action must be unanimous. The administration has presented a proposed budget based on a forecast that three of the four members of the REC have approved at three separate meetings. The House Speaker, who has voted against each forecast, has publicly stated that he will vote to approve a forecast in the next month or so.
3) There has been no revenue forecast by the REC for Fiscal Year (FY) 20. The only FY20 forecast was in June 2018 as part of a long-range projection of revenue, not as an “official forecast” for FY20. The law provides “that by January of each year, the REC shall revise the official forecast for the ensuing year, which shall be utilized in the preparation of the executive budget.” The REC has failed to do so; the last time the REC acted, the “ensuing year” was FY19, not FY20.
4) Thus, there is no forecast upon which the governor could confect an executive budget; instead, a proposed budget has been submitted to the Legislature for consideration.
5) The Speaker offered a proposal to use current data to recognize some revenue (dedications), but to use year-old data for the state general fund. This was properly rejected by the other three members of the REC because there can be only one forecast, which should include all sources of revenue based on consistent data.
6) There has not been a “40 percent increase in state-generated dollars” as Sadow erroneously claims.
7) Not a single dollar will be spent until the Legislature debates and no doubt revises the proposed budget.
8) The governor has not proposed and will not support any increase in taxes in order to balance the FY20 budget.
All citizens are entitled to their own opinions but not their own facts, even in an election year.
Louisiana commissioner of administration