Louisiana is less dependent on oil and gas revenues than it was decades ago, but when prices slump even a bit, the state ought to be cautious.
Even so, Cameron Henry, the Republican chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, seemed more driven by politics than policy when he voted against recognizing new revenue projections for state government this week.
Henry, sitting in for House Speaker Taylor Barras during a meeting of the four-member Revenue Estimating Conference this week, cast the lone "no" vote against recognizing some $40 million in projected additional revenues because of an improving economy. The Legislature had authorized using the money for corrections, sheriffs and a new center for juvenile offenders if the state's revenue outlook improved.
Henry's decision seems at odds with the analysis provided by economists the REC uses to provide objective data on future revenue.
Most lawmakers, we think, understood that overall economic trends would result in revenue growth and justify releasing the money. The problem is that the committee in charge of releasing the money must be unanimous, and Henry objected.
This provoked bipartisan anger. Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards and Republican Senate President John Alario were annoyed. Louisiana doesn't want another self-inflicted budget crisis as a Christmas present.
What will probably happen now is that Henry’s vote will be answered at another meeting of the revenue committee before the holidays. We hope Barras shows up next time. Sending one of the most partisan members of the House Republican leadership in his place will only underscore the assumption that GOP lawmakers are trying to undercut Edwards as he stands for reelection next year. Henry's roadblock also threatens Edwards' ability to propose pay raises next year for the public school teachers, a key part of the governor's agenda.
Volatility in the economy should concern everyone. But political volatility — the exhausting tug of war at the State Capitol that puts partisanship before principle — should be a worry for the state's elected leaders, too.
Of the four votes on the Revenue Estimating Conference, Commissioner of Administration Jay Dardenne has more administrative experience than the other three combined. Dardenne’s conclusion: "This is not the way to handle the state's business or budget."