After a decade of budgetary crises and shortfalls at the State Capitol, and two years of even more intense discussion of reform of the state's tax system, the Republican leadership of the state House of Representatives can't come up with a dime of specific budget cuts they will support, and they've failed to agree with any of Gov. John Bel Edwards' proposed revenue replacements.
What a waste of time.
The House leaders have dawdled as temporary budget-balancing taxes passed in 2016 are set to expire, leaving state government in a world of hurt financially by July 1.
Instead of specifics, matching the governor's proposals in scope if not in detail, the GOP leadership's letter to the governor offered various process-oriented ideas, not all of which are bad.
But none of them give an honest and direct answer to the prevailing question: How will you fund government? Not in the long future, but today?
We're all for transparency in government spending, a concept Republican leaders have embraced in pushing for a new website that would, in its ideal form, easily show where every dime of state tax money goes. And there might well be some modest savings if — and it's a big "if" — work requirements or co-pays for working-class families can be approved by the federal Medicaid program, and then actually collected from financially challenged patients at doctors' offices or hospitals.
But the potential savings are pittances compared to the scale of the potentially disastrous "fiscal cliff" that the state faces on July 1, when more than $1 billion in recurring revenue expires. Where are the dollars outlined to fix that? Not in the GOP letter, that's for sure.
There appears to be no willingness among the Republican leadership to endorse any of the tax reform plans generated by a commission of experts that was established by the GOP-led House itself two years ago.
Some of those involved in the GOP's House leadership, such as state Rep. Cameron Henry, of Metairie, once teamed up with Edwards when he was in the state House to make budget changes. The GOP members, occasionally differing with then-Gov. Bobby Jindal, were called "fiscal hawks" back then. But today, with the state desperately in need of budget solutions and real dollars in the short term, and comprehensive tax reforms for the long term, those fiscal hawks have become fiscal sparrows.
They peck at the margins of the budget process and ignore the fiscal cliff, assuming perhaps that they can flutter across the abyss and leave Edwards holding the tab.
As an exercise in leadership, it's for the birds.