Anyone who wants to study the application of Chaos Theory to politics should examine the Louisiana Legislature, but it may help to do so with lots of mind-numbing substances. It won’t explain anything, but it will dull the pain.
The first thing to remember, however, is that it’s the Legislature’s job to provide for the short- and long-term fiscal stability of state government. The governor can recommend courses of action, but it’s lawmakers’ job
to get it done. When the job doesn’t get done, the fault lies with them alone.
The Council for A Better Louisiana (CABL)
, a nonpartisan government watchdog group, reminded lawmakers of this in a March 1 letter
. Here’s an excerpt:
“The first and foremost [thing to do] right now is to bring stability and sustainability to the budget. That is perhaps the most basic responsibility of the Legislature. It is not asking you to do an unusual thing. It is asking you to do what should be the most basic and normal thing.”
CABL went on to recommend three courses of action, which lawmakers, ever in the thrall of chaos, are likely to ignore:
• Determine a level of state spending that is appropriate to support vital services.
• Fund that level of spending in a balanced way without resorting to the gimmicks or sleight of hand we have seen in the past.
• Make the solutions permanent to end the cycle of temporary taxes that only tend to exacerbate Louisiana’s problems.
As CABL noted, this is pretty basic stuff. So why hasn’t it happened?
There’s blame enough to go around. The House Republican delegation for the past two years has focused on embarrassing Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards. Several members of the delegation have told me on numerous occasions that their meetings involve little or no discussion of public policy but instead are all about denying Edwards a “win” — even if it means driving the state into the ditch, which they have done. This has become so obvious that some Republican lawmakers, in a fit of conscience, have bravely noted it from the well of the House.
House Democrats are likewise to blame. In recent weeks they have said Louisiana needs to raise income taxes along with sales taxes. Philosophically, that is a fair position to take, but it ignores the undeniable fact that the state will reap more than $300 million in additional income taxes next year because of changes to the federal tax code — and that’s without changing brackets or rates. To Louisiana taxpayers, that’s an income tax hike because they will pay more.
In politics and in life, you’re entitled to your own opinion, but you’re not entitled to your own separate facts.
Finally, and I hope taxpayers pay particular attention to this, Louisiana’s fiscal mess proves that there’s no such thing as a “fiscal conservative.” Lawmakers are either fiscally responsible or fiscally irresponsible. Many claim to be “fiscally conservative” in an attempt to deflect voters’ attention from the fact they have been wholly irresponsible.
Hence, the chaos.