As president of LSU for six years, F. King Alexander had to develop at least some sense of where the politics of the State Capitol is headed.
His outlook is not good. Alexander said the prospect of new budget fights in the Legislature contributed to his decision to leave LSU for Oregon State.
“I do feel like we’re going into another war zone,” he said.
Unfortunately, there is some evidence for his pessimism.
Rancorous party politics has taken the Capitol to new lows over the past year, with the House leadership throwing obstacles into historically nonpartisan processes for preparing responsible state budgets.
That happened again, with state Sen.-elect Cameron Henry, R-Metairie, blocking the unanimous consent needed for revenue estimates in the budget. His action — as designee for outgoing House Speaker Taylor Barras, R-New Iberia — can be taken as a parting shot by the House GOP leaders who targeted Gov. John Bel Edwards, a Democrat, from the get-go in 2016.
But it might also be taken as a sign of things to come, another war against stability and responsible budgeting in the coming four years, after Edwards is sworn into his second term on Jan. 13.
The Revenue Estimating Conference was a reform effort to base revenues on responsible forecasts, with unanimous consent required so that a professional economist could block the tendency of overspending by the three other members, all elected officials like Henry.
For Barras and Henry, who have had a tough time imposing their anti-government agenda when it is put to a vote in larger bodies, the speaker’s seat on the REC has been perverted into a way to throw a wrench into the budget process.
In the most recent case, the new revenues in the rejected forecast were to help, among other things, with funding of a coastal restoration project in Plaquemines Parish. Practical consequences are not top of mind for the anti-Edwards forces. It’s all about confusion and manipulation of the process, because an unanimous vote is required.
This is no way to run a state, and the irresponsible parties are in the House leadership.
There’s an old joke among economists that if you forecast a recession often enough, you’ll eventually be right. Against all the experts, Henry and Barras profess to be worried about a downturn. One day, maybe, they’ll be correct.
In the meantime, more than a year since first misusing the REC process, neither of the Republican leaders is being honest about the budget.