Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards delivered a punch to the gut in his unprecedented State of the State address to Louisiana citizens last week.
For the first time in eight years, the truth was revealed about the financial disaster facing the state after eight years of rule by Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal and his GOP accomplices in the Legislature. It is not a pretty picture.
As expected, GOP officials and their sympathizers were quick to leap onto their soap boxes to denounce the facts produced by Edwards. But facts are facts.
The Louisiana Republican Party demanded that television stations allow a rebuttal to the Edwards speech. And who appears of the screen? None other than state Treasurer John Kennedy.
He, of course, had all the answers even though he has never set foot in the governor’s office. It was more of a campaign speech for his race for the U.S. Senate. Not a good choice for a rebuttal by GOP party leaders.
When Democratic Gov. Kathleen Blanco left the governor’s office in 2005, the state had a $1.4 billion surplus. As Jindal departs, the state faces a $943 million shortfall just through June 30 and a $2 billion budget hole for the fiscal year beginningJuly 1.
A Special Session has begun to see if the governor and legislators can fix the financial problems. But if Republican legislators are looking into the box of budgetary band-aids they used during Jindal’s rule, they will find the box empty.
There are no easy answers left and one-time money used for recurring expenses is not a solution anymore. It is time to bite the bullet.
What’s discouraging is that conservative groups started denouncing the governor’s plans before the ink was dry on his speech.
Americans for Prosperity Louisiana released a poll showing that voters overwhelmingly disapproved of any tax increases. It is also airing a 30-second television ad to scuttle the efforts of the Edwards administration to fix Louisiana’s fiscal mess.
But one should give very little credibility to anything espoused by Americans for Prosperity Louisiana. All that one needs to know is that it was founded in 2004 by conservative businessmen and the likes of the Koch brothers. Objectivity is not one of the organization’s strong suits.
To be sure, all possible remedies for cutting spending should be exhausted before taxes are levied. But most economists say that spending cuts alone will not solve Louisiana’s budget deficits.
So it comes down to this. Do Louisiana citizens want more drastic cuts to every facet of state government or are they willing to pay the piper for electing Jindal governor not once, but twice.
The games have begun and will last for three weeks in a Special Session called by the governor. The results of the Session are anxiously awaited by all Louisianians.