Tuesday, 05 July 2011 20:05

Louisiana Budget Issues Are Right On LaTrac

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         Like the American government and nearly all of the rest of the Louisiana Capitolstates in the union, Louisiana is struggling with long term debt and yearly deficits.   The 2012 Louisiana state budget is $25 billion and was passed through the legislature to the governor on June 21, 2011.

 However, two very serious problems face the state. The first is continuing deficits; this year amounting to $2.4 billion. That means that 10% of the budget is not covered by revenues. Because Louisiana must balance its budget, which means that some very serious cuts and some quick-step shuffling of accounts had to be made to make up the shortfall. The state cannot afford to continually cut critical programs, but it also legally cannot fail to balance the budget. This creates a conundrum.

But a more critical issue concerns unfunded debt. The state future is threatened by commitments for which there is no money to fund.  By adding together total outstanding debt for pensions, unemployment trust funds, budget gaps, etc… the total debt of Louisiana stands at $36.5 billion. It is almost impossible to imagine paying down that debt.

To further cut programs would cripple higher education and healthcare while seriously diminishing the quality of life in the state and its economic potential. To raise taxes sufficient to cover the shortfalls would undermine any hopes of economic recovery by sapping the economic liquidity of residents and businesses.

The situation becomes even more complicated because it appears that the Obama administration has taken aim at our state’s economy. First, they shut down the Space Shuttle program which employed thousands of high paid workers. Next, they practically shut down the off-shore oil industry which cost the jobs of another segment of high paid workers while simultaneously reducing oil royalties the state desperately needs. Lastly, they have cut the defense budget which has resulted in practically closing the Avondale Ship Yards which also employed thousands with good incomes.

Taken all together, Louisiana faces a dismal economic future unless something drastic occurs. The gathering clouds of high future financial commitments casts a shadow over our state’s recovery.   The problem is compounded with critical shortfalls in revenue from oil royalties and personal taxes.

 This is an important issue that all residents should take the time to review. Fortunately, Governor Jindal initiated the La Trac website to monitor the state’s finances [Google La Trac or go to www.latrac.la.gov ].  This allows residents the opportunity to see for themselves just where their money is going.   It is an interesting site and one that should be monitored.

La Trac clearly states its purpose on the home page: “Welcome to Louisiana Transparency and Accountability (LaTrac). LaTrac's primary mission is to make Louisiana's state government finances, and operations transparent and accountable to Louisiana's citizens. Today, it is more critical than ever that governments function at the highest level of integrity and efficiency in order to fairly meet the needs of its people. Accordingly, it is a necessity that government operations be open and transparent to the public. LaTrac addresses this need, presenting key Louisiana finances and operations in a clear and concise format designed for ease of public use.

Effective use of this tool by citizens and interested parties can play a critical role in helping to resolve Louisiana’s financial woes. The waste and fat are there for all to see. Budgetary priorities are fully disclosed. This might allow for some private, non-partisan group (s) to examine the situation and come to some helpful conclusions for solving our financial problems before they merge into a crisis.

 Knowledge is power. La Trac gives citizens the knowledge they need about government revenues and expenditures which in turn gives citizens the power to do something about the problem.

by Ron Chapman


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