Friday, 16 March 2018 21:25

Maness agrees, Louisiana GOP in driver's seat to fix Fiscal Cliff, without Dems

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DRIVER CLIFFIf you think about it, aren't the Louisiana Republican legislators in the driver's seat to be able to fix that onerous and seemingly ever-present, fiscal cliff?

I think so. And, apparantly, so does Rob Maness, who like the fiscal hawks in the House of Representatives and some in the Senate, want budget cuts now and deep and reasonable. They, along with just about everybody in the state are tired of the annual budget crises. They have been urging primarily the scapel and reform, others favor less knife and more gas, or revenues, to soften the blow of less governmental services. 

And guess what? It seems since the Republicans control the Louisiana legislature, they can make those cavernous cuts without the help or"interference" of the Democrats (some might say). This could mean Republican slamming down the peddle preventing various factions, including even Governor John Bel Edwards, from having any real say.

Not that there would not be strong wind of resistence ahead. But, theoretically, they have road in front of them all by themselves. They are in control.  So, in many respects, the real unknown is, will they go alone?  And, if the House Republicans, who are in the majority want to cut all 700 million dollars which is, at this point, the anticipated steep rock face in front of us, it could be full speed ahead, so to speak. 

Perhaps easier said than done.  For instance, as Rob Maness points out in the interview segment below, there is Senator John Alario, a Republican who was once a liberal Democrat (and some believe he still is, if not in name but in political leanings).  To make this work, Alario must go along with what the majority Republicans agree upon in the House. Then, assuming he does, then, of course, the entire Republican Senate must follow.

Which presents a particularly interesting question: As expected, Governor John Bel Edwards has stated he wants to call a Special Session in May to once again look at any and all possible revenue raisers, or, better known as taxes.

But, what if the Republicans make those dramatic cuts during the regular session? If they don't compromise in the special session with any or many taxes, whether it be sales taxes or otherwise, the Governor would not be able to raise revenues and would be stuck in neutral.  He would be forced to accept the mandate of the majority.

Not that the Governor does not have options. There is the veto power of legislation the majority badly wants and of course, the line item veto.

Still, for the fiscal hawks and other conservative Republicans the option to floor it with the budget cuts is tempting.  For at least a few years, they have insisted upon budgetary lacerations, not snips whether the victims be healthcare, higher education or even TOPS. Many of their voters are convinced that Louisiana government is laden with waste, fraud, unnecessary government contracts and abuse and demand that taxes be a non-starter.  Making matters even more politically compelling, election fever is beginning to rise, as they and the Governor are up for a vote, next fall.   

In many respects, they are maneuvering on a narrow path playing a real game of chicken roulet.

It will surely be an interesting spring, won't it?

Below is the relevant conversation with Colonel Rob Maness, who is urging both Republicans, Democrats and the Governor, to find a reasonable approach to cutting the budget that would attack corruption reduce waste and increase efficiencies.

Also, watch the entire interview with Colonel Maness in which he goes into more details as to how the legislature can approach these difficult issues this spring. At the bottom of the page are Bayoubuzz videos related to this legislative session.

SABLUDOWSKY: If you had an opportunity to tell the legislature what to do during this regular session what would it be.

MANESS: Do your job and pass a budget pass a budget that fixes the fiscal cliff of 700 million dollars.

MANESS: If the if the executive branch will not work with you don't do the the opposite of what they do come in and try to force their hand by making drastic cuts in programs, that's going to hurt people. But look at each program on your own and find the areas where you can attack corruption reduce waste and increase efficiencies.

MANESS: And if we take that approach and stop the attacks on it from the left on the right from the right on the left we can pass a budget that actually fits our needs.

MANESS: And the governor needs to get Senator Alario to support the budget the House passes.

MANESS: If that's a reasonable budget and it eliminates this 700 million dollar cliff. The governor supporting that budget when it goes to the Senate will will enable its passage in a smooth way and it can be done. There's no doubt in my mind that can be done and we don't have to hire people to do that.

SABLUDOWSKY:: Ok so let them use them. Here's the last question.  I have lots of questions I have and just try to think out loud for a second and that is that in this regular session let's assume that they take your ideas and they maybe make changes to Medicaid which would require say copays and other payment by say the recipient or the insured to continue to you know to reduce the burden on the state to contribute to thr state. Now, by doing that, that's not raising revenues that that's taking away benefits. So therefore that's that's going to be approved by a majority or would be approved by a majority. Same thing in terms of say cuts or modifications.

MANESS: See there you go. I know Steve you say taking away benefits they tell me that are five dollar copay levied on going on as a job is taking away a benefit from our brother. I mean that's the kind of that's the kind of negativity though that we've got to get away from that because that's not a cut in a benefit.

MANESS: Look you know a lot of us have government backed subsidies subsidized insurance and those kind of things and we all pay co pays if we're able to. You can have a means test to make sure that we can do that and actually puts some teeth into that into that work requirement for Medicaid recipients if you put a five hour copay on them on an emergency room visit and reduce emergency room visits.

SABLUDOWSKY:: Ok well I don't know how else to ask the question because you know insurance companies call those benefits. OK so that's what I'm referring to.

MANESS: Ok. But instituting a copay is not a reduction in benefits it's just making the program more efficient.

MANESS: Well so you don't have to raise revenue because you can't get the dollars out of the program itself and it will be an unreasonable amount. OK well that's the issue.

SABLUDOWSKY:: Ok. And that's not what I'm referring to though. OK. OK. I don't know of any other term to use, I'm not talking about  government benefits, I'm talking about Ben. You know the term that insurance companies use in terms of what they want to pay. So that's where--the issue that I'm raising.

: so you don't say there you go again, but the issue that I'm raising is this--that the things that you're recommending can be done, not necessarily the special session but in a regular session that you does not need to have a a supermajority vote. That's that's what I'm asking.

MANESS: That's the positive side of what you said. Exactly. And that's exactly right.

SABLUDOWSKY:: It can be done during the regular session without a super majority vote.  So that means that means that the House and Senate majority can do that on their own.  They don't need the black caucus like he did during the special session.

MANESS: That's right

SABLUDOWSKY:: OK I just. I just want to get that out there. OK. I mean that's what I want to get out of that if you can think of some other term benefits that I can use to describe what the insurance company would be paying out--I'for it.

MANESS: Well Medicaid is a government program so if you institute a co-pay, you're doing. You're doing what, what I said, is one of the three things I said needs to be done. And that's the efficiency part of it.

MANESS: You can make it more efficient because and I use emergency room visits for a reason and five dollars for a reason-- because those are folks. Some of them do work, so there, if you are working I say you have to pay a five hour copay if you go to the emergency room that will do a couple of things.

MANESS: Number one it reduces your need to have to raise revenue to to replace those dollars if you don't have the copay so you get those dollars in.

MANESS: But number two it reduces emergency room visits which is very expensive and encourages people to go to urgent care or primary care for a visit instead of going to the emergency room.

MANESS: And that is one that is a policy change that I think would have a very positive effect with minimal impact and if we do it right, no impact, really on Medicaid recipients if we limited to those folks that are working because I've seen on the on the left side of the argument, on Twitter, even as early as late as of a week ago--that the folks were complaining because people on the right were making the assumption that folks on Medicaid don't work. And I know that's not true.  Some folks that are able bodied that just don't make enough money are able to get on Medicaid now and have reasonable effort to find the line of agreement between the two sides could be something like a five dollar copay for emergency room visits and have a positive effect as opposed to a negative effect in an open everybody on both sides of these vicious attacks.

SABLUDOWSKY:: Ok. Well look I agree with what you're saying. OK I agree that the House can do this on their own and the Senate can do this on their own. OK I agree with that and I do think that it needs to be more contribution. I'm just saying that I don't know any other word to describe. You know the services other than using the term benefit even though that has a connotation is different than what I intended. OK?

MANESS: Yep. And you know what it would also be helpful even though the majority doesn't wouldn't need groups like the Legislative Black Caucus in the house.

MANESS: What else would be helpful is if they would work with the Legislative Black Caucus to develop these types of policy changes so that we're working together. And if the legislative black caucus would be willing to come in and do this in good faith along with the folks on the Republican side that would be.  I mean that's the ultimate good policy making effort that needs to occur and it can occur here and I just used that five dollar copay as an example. There are all types of ways you can find efficiencies. That's not an attack on individuals that are participating in the program or individuals that support the programs and vice versa. So there are ways to get this done and not violate your principles. On one side wanting to make sure that there's a safety net for the poor. On the other side wanting to make sure that we're making sound financial decisions for the state. 

SABLUDOWSKY:: Sure.  You know and again the legislature can do this on their own. They don't need Democrats, they don't need Black Caucus, they can do this, and if a special sessions is called,as i appreciate what we're talking about is, they don't have to. They don't have to participate in terms of voting for in favor of any revenue bills. So in actuality, I think what we're saying is that the Republicans in the legislature have it totally in their camp.  they can decide their own future going forward in this session, in the regular session.

MANESS: Yes, they can, yes they can

MANESS: But you have to acknowledge the reality that the Senate is controlled by John Alario and they tend to go align themselves on the budget with the governor so the governor is critical to getting the support of the Senate even though they are a republican majority.

SABLUDOWSKY:: I understand.  I understand. Listen, thank you so much I really do appreciate you taking your time and...


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