From The Publisher: June 2015
06/05/2015 08:23AM ● Published by Aimee Cormier
By Art Suberbielle
The Buck Needs To Stop Here
Day after day we have been bombarded with news about the budget shortfall in Louisiana. Most accounts put the shortfall at $1.6 billion. That’s not exactly pocket change, so it does tend to grab our attention. But if your step back from all the political rhetoric, you will come to the same conclusion that I have: Louisiana doesn’t have a revenue problem, we have a spending problem.
When Louisiana’s oil and gas industry was enjoying the boom years, our state was flush with money from severance taxes and general sales taxes. The legislature got very comfortable with a seemingly unending source of funds. And as all good politicians do, when they can find some money, they find a multitude of ways to spend it. So when revenues started to swell, our elected officials didn’t think about putting some aside for the future. They just kept on creating new ways to spend the money.
Many of these new programs that were created during the boom years still need funding even though the state’s revenues aren’t growing. There are several critical areas that do have increasing financial needs, including education and health care. Add up all the financial demands and subtract the projected income, and the state budget office comes up about $1.6 billion short.
Now if you and I ended up not having enough money to fund our personal expenses, we would figure out a way to cut some things out. But when you try to cut anything out of the state’s budget, there’s plenty of legislators ready to protest. Most of the budget solutions proposed thus far have not addressed reducing or eliminating the frivolous or non-essential programs that we spend millions financing. Instead, most solutions being discussed end up passing the buck to you and me in the form of tax increases.
What we really need now are some legislators who have the courage to do the right thing, no matter how difficult it will be. It may not be politically expedient to propose cuts in some programs and eliminating others, but we can ill-afford the status quo. We must rein in the spending and live within the revenue that’s available.