It’s unappealingly smug, true, but those photos last week of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie enjoying a beach deserted because of a government shutdown surely brought a smile to survivors of Louisiana’s brutal budget battles.
Thousands of Jersey state workers were furloughed and Cub Scout Pack 124 was forced to leave Cheesequake State Park because New Jersey’s Republican governor and the Democratic-led Legislature couldn’t agree on a spending plan before the July 1 deadline.
By the Fourth of July, Christie won with changes to the state’s largest health insurer, while Democrats got increased spending for schools. He signed a $34.7 billion budget, and the state beaches reopened.
TRENTON, N.J. (AP) — Gov. Chris Christie got blistered online Monday after he was photograph…
With a little less drama but a similar donnybrook, Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards signed this state’s $28 billion budget on June 26. That was nine days into a special overtime session called because legislators couldn’t agree in the time allotted.
In the end, 13 Louisiana House Republicans — more moderate than their colleagues, or at least more tired of the fussing and fighting — joined 41 Democrats and two independents to pass a spending plan that cut appropriations to already deeply slashed state services a little less than what House Republicans sought.
Eleven states didn’t have a final budget on July 1, the day that Louisiana and 45 other states began fiscal year 2018, according to the National Association of State Budget Officers. Lawmakers in Connecticut, Massachusetts, Oregon, Rhode Island, and Wisconsin were still pounding out the details on Friday.
Wisconsin lawmakers are fighting over how to pay to fix crumbling roads. Oregon legislators are arguing over changes to the way that state taxes businesses.
Maine’s government shut down for four days as legislators played chicken with tea party Republican Gov. Paul LePage. Democratic legislators agreed to dump a lodging tax for GOP concurrence to spend more on behavioral health programs.
Illinois Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner, a business executive who had never held public office before being elected in 2014 to “shake up Springfield,” vetoed a tax hike and spending plan for services that cost $7 billion more than the nation’s fifth most populous state collects. Illinois has $15 billion in unpaid bills, $251 billion in unfunded pension obligations and is teetering on becoming the first state with a “junk” bond rating from the big Wall Street credit analysts.
On Thursday night, 10 Illinois Republicans broke ranks to override Rauner’s veto and, for the first time since 2015, approved a $36 billion budget with increases in personal and corporate tax rates.
Budget battles elsewhere have the same roots as here, uncompromising political philosophies, said Alexandria Rep. Lance Harris, who heads the Louisiana House’s Republican majority.
One side wants to limit the growth of government by controlling spending, which Harris said “increases individual freedoms and rights because it allows everyday people more money to make their own choices with.”
The other side believes that government should provide a stabilizing force that increases individual freedoms by opening opportunities for more people to succeed.
As the harsh feelings from 2017 sessions of the Louisiana Legislature recede, state Rep. Gen…
“Our divides are probably pretty much the same as in other states,” agreed Minden Rep. Gene Reynolds, who heads the House’s Democratic Caucus. “Our problems, too.”
Half the nation’s states began 2017 facing revenue shortfalls, according to National Association of State Budget Officers.
The causes also sound familiar.
Even if most don’t have the added pain of falling oil and gas prices, sluggish sales tax collections are universal. Add to that, 11 states — including Louisiana — cut taxes in recent years to spur the economy. Twenty-three states adopted economic development tax incentives and subsidies for businesses to create new jobs. Unfortunately, both hopes have been deferred, making sick the hearts of budget architects.
This is not Louisiana’s first fiscal crisis. But back in the mid-1980s, legislators were not so philosophically pure.
“They definitely were more pragmatic,” said Greg Albrecht, the Legislature’s economist, recalling that in one budget, the House hacked off a half-billion dollars and the state Senate a few days later whacked off another $500 million.
“A billion dollars gone, it was that quick,” he said, snapping his fingers.
Recognizing, perhaps, that all this partisan dysfunction sounds like the back story in one of those dystopian novels, Reynolds and Harris began talking during the legislative session about getting together to see where the two sides could find common ground.
State legislators finally departed Baton Rouge on Friday.
“We can’t just keep doing the stalemate stuff. We’ve got to come together with a coalition from both parties to get things passed for tax reform,” Reynolds said last week.