Would Louisiana taxpayers really be hurt if the legislature toed the line and failed to raise the sales tax of $4.33 upward to $4.50? Or, is there enough waste, fraud, and abuse in state government spending and more efficiencies to consider before raising another .17 cents or less, when the Louisiana State Legislature meets in the third fiscal session this year? The special session starts Monday June 18, the government players must talk turkey and a budget and revenues must be determined before the new fiscal year begins, July 1.
This is the issue I raised in yesterday's Facebook-Twitter Live with Jan Moller, Executive Director of the Louisiana Budget Project. Many Louisiana voters simply do not believe that the "scare tactics" being deployed of university programs being shuttered, prisons being released is accurate, at all. There is also a long track record of the Louisiana governor and/or legislators finding money, not spent, to soften the anticipated blow of cuts.
Below is the transcript of part two of the Moller interview. Also below is the full video of that discussion with Moller. This segment began at the 8 minute, 26 second mark and ends at the 13: 47 second mark. Here is the first part of the interview with Jan Moller.
SABLUDOWSKY: So one of the things that I've been at least getting some feedback about specifically, I can tell you that I did a talk show on Friday with with conservative Rob Maness. We do one every Friday and basically I mentioned about people would be hurt and he is saying that really nobody was gonna be hurt although he does acknowledge TOPS--but he feels like that so is is is he wrong? I mean I'm not trying to disagree with him or attack them, I'm just saying that it seems to me that if you're a hundred million dollars are so short or even more than--then in this case the district attorney's, the courts, the the prison etc I mean they could have lost money, they're gonna be hurt.
MOLLER: Well let's start with higher education. Is LSU gonna close down, if we don't pass these revenue? No that's not gonna happen but but a hundred million dollars cut to higher education put aside the thirty percent cut to TOPS, there's two parts to the higher education cuts. There's a 30 percent cut to tops which means we've made a promise to people who went to high school and did everything they were told to do and and we'd be breaking that promise by 30 percent. But then there's also a hundred million dollars in just general fund support cut to higher education, if we don't pass these revenues.
Louisiana has already cut state support for higher education farther and faster than any other state in the country, so we have a higher education enterprise that's already been fairly decimated. You take another hundred million dollars out of that, you're laying off professors. You're closing departments and you're certainly telling the best and brightest people on your faculty throughout the state, that Louisiana is not the place for you, so you would be seeing thousands of people sending their resumes out to pretty much anywhere else to get the heck away from the state if we cut higher education by a hundred million dollars. And that's a decision that would have a generational impact.
You know our college faculty are here to train the people who are going to be leading our economy in 20-30 years, and if you lose your best college faculty you're not just losing a salary, you may be losing the research dollars that go with them, but you're also losing some of your best talent and the talent that you're counting on to help the next generation be the leaders and the economic engine. So, so I think higher education and people in higher education would tell you that they cannot take a hundred million dollar cut.
Let's take another example: Sheriffs--about half of all state inmates in Louisiana serve their time in local jails and so we pay sheriff's local sheriff's to care for state inmates. We pay them a little bit over twenty-five dollars per day, per prisoner, to to take care of those inmates. So you have about 15, 16 thousand people serving time, serving state time at the local level and now at the state level, if you're an Angola, Angola gets about 55-56 dollars per prisoner per day, but those local sheriff's get less than half that, they get 25 dollars a day, and right now, if they don't raise any money, that money that that budget gets cut by, I think something on the order of 20 percent.
It gets cut so so they're already getting the lowest reimbursement of really anybody in the country, I think. I don't think there's a jail or a prison anywhere in this country that operates on $25 per day and we're talking about cutting that. So the sheriff's are saying we simply cannot operate if you cut the the per diem for the state inmates anymore. And so then we we literally are looking at furloughing prisoners.
Now maybe yeah maybe Colonel Manass thinks it's a good idea to let 10,000 inmates out of jail, to furlough people out of Prisons, because because saving a half a penny of sales tax is that important to him, but I would beg to differ and I would say that that you know those those people are in jail for a reason. We can talk about criminal justice reform but I don't think that there's a realistic way that the sheriffs can operate on the budget that they have right now, if you don't fund anymore.
So those are just two examples, let's think about assistant district attorneys, not the DA's their salaries are in the Constitution, but the assistant district attorneys, the people who do the day-to-day work of prosecuting crimes at the parish level, they're not funded in this budget. And so and again we're not having a budget debate. This is not, the legislature is not going to come in here and talk about--do we want to spend money on this, but not that? That debate is over, the legislature spoke and they adopted the Senate version of the budget. This is just-- do you want to fund the things that are below the line, and I don't know anybody in state government who thinks that we can keep operating at a reasonable responsible level without raising five hundred and seven million dollars or something very very close to that amount.