The answer is, technically, yes.
But, based upon my own research, responses from reporters during interviews and comments from the Governor’s office, I again reiterate—it is some republican members of the legislature, their loyal followers and some conservative bloggers--who are misrepresenting the facts.
Foremost, the most outrageous “BSer” has been our treasurer, John Kennedy, who has been running for US Senate on a, “we have a spending problem, not a revenue problem”. Kennedy has grossly underestimated the budget problem over and over.
Well, obviously, the past four legislative sessions have soundly disagreed with this, including the four-Republican-controlled House of Representatives, the President of Louisiana Association of Business and Industry, who suggested raising sales taxes by two pennies. And, yes, even Governor Bobby Jindal wanted to raise revenues last year although he was not honest about it and called it a tax credit.
Also, I invite any legislator or Republican party leader or conservative blogger join me in a discussion about this issue via online video. If I am wrong, if the governor is mistaken, then, please show us our errant ways, with your facts. We can even do the interview on Facebook and let the Facebook audience ask you questions, LIVE.
Last, below is a post by Governor Edwards’s office which I believe fairly and accurately explains the budget problem and the two-billion-dollar difference.
Over the past year, there have been some very responsible members of the Republican-controlled legislature who have taken the hit. They should be congratulated for their courage, for doing what they absolutely did not want to do, but what they felt was necessary.
Nobody wants to raise taxes. Nobody.
MYTH: The budget proposal for the fiscal year that begins on July 1 is $2 billion larger than last year’s budget.
FACT: Facing a budget shortfall last fiscal year, the previous administration simply chose not to include large expenses in an attempt to make the shortfall appear artificially smaller. To put it simply, the administration did not pay its bills and pushed the costs into the new budget year. For example, the previous administration only paid 11 – instead of 12 – monthly medical vendor payments, leaving Gov. Edwards on the hook for 13, rather than 12 payments. That added $126.2 million to the budget. In addition, the previous administration did not properly budget for the increase in the number of people who would use Medicaid – they ignored the increase for the first time since the Medicaid program began. That neglect added another $135 million for the Edwards administration to cover. To make matters worse, the previous administration did not account for expenses that they knew would come due this past year for the Department of Children and Family Services, $11.4 million; Department of Corrections, $14 million; and the Office of Juvenile Justice, $9.7 million. But more than anything is that they built last year’s budget on $800 million in one-time money, even though the expenses would be recurring year after year. Finally, the budget appears larger because new federal tax dollars are coming home to Louisiana because Gov. Edwards has expanded Medicaid, which means our state will now be receiving more federal money to cover health costs for the working poor of our state – while actually saving more than $180 million in state dollars.
BACKGROUND: Louisiana is currently facing a $600 million budget shortfall that threatens funding for TOPS, K-12 education, higher education, and life-saving health care services. Gov. John Bel Edwards called the legislature into the just-ended second special session in an effort to reduce next year’s budget shortfall. (All told, Gov. Edwards worked together with the legislature to address all but $300 million of next year’s deficits through cuts and revenue raised). Unfortunately, there is some misinformation circulating in the public. With that in mind, the administration will occasionally send information to the public to set the record straight.