Should members of the LSU Board of Supervisors disclose who receives their scholarships?|
|It's what the people wanted|
Though the regular session got dicey recently over the use of one-time revenues to finance ongoing state expenses, the Legislature will wrap things up early next week and yes, one-time monies will be in play to balance the more than $25-billion budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1.
That's a certainty that conservatives in the House of Representatives will accept because pursuing the alternative represents political suicide. Knowing the Senate would never sign off on a budget that doesn't include using one-time revenues, the alternative would entail ending the regular session by its constitutionally mandated deadline on Monday without a spending plan in place to operate the state in the 2012-2013 fiscal year.
Closing out the regular session without an adopted budget would force lawmakers into a special session, and that would cost the state millions of dollars. Certainly the House conservatives – let's call them the fiscal hawks – realize they would be castigated in the court of public opinion if the state were forced to incur the expense for a special session that easily could have been avoided.
The notion that it's so wrong to turn to one-time revenues to balance the budget is asinine, just as it's asinine to object to tapping the state's Rainy Day fund to shore up a deficit in the current fiscal year, or the fiscal year that ends June 30. Yet, that's exactly what the fiscal hawks believe. At the very least, that's what they've communicated to the public through their actions and their statements to the media.
Let's not forget that term limits plays a role in the naivete the fiscal hawks have exhibited of late. We should forgive them, for newly elected lawmakers and those who've only been around for a term or two do not possess the institutional knowledge to fully understand how the legislative process works, especially when it concerns piecing together a budget to finance state government. There's more to it than simply hollering "cut, cut, cut."
There's more to it, too, than removing some $200-plus million in one-time revenues from the budget and ordering the Commissioner of Administration to find some $200 million--$300 million in additional cuts in order to balance the budget for the new fiscal year. Yet, led by the fiscal hawks, that's exactly what the House did a couple of weeks ago when it stripped one-time revenues from the proposed operating budget for the new fiscal year, while not offering any cuts of substance to make it work. Any House member who says specific cuts that would result in real savings were identified is playing fast and loose with the truth.
Meanwhile, the Senate will spend much of this week crafting a budget that's satisfactory to the Jindal administration. We saw evidence of that Monday when the Senate Finance Committee immediately restored every penny in one-time revenues to the budget that the House removed two weeks ago.
Working in conjunction with the Jindal administration, the Senate also will restore much of the cuts the House ordered, setting the stage for the budget to be sent to a conference committee where lawmakers will hatch a compromise.
Composed of members of the House and Senate, the conference committee most likely will settle on a hodge-podge of some $150 million in additional cuts to the budget while some $150 million or so in one-time revenues will be utilized to balance the state's spending plan for the new fiscal year.
Hovering in the background over all of this mess is the cold, hard reality that corporate and personal income tax collections have declined in recent years. Don't place all of the blame on the state economy for the decline, though a more robust economy certainly would yield more tax revenues for the state's coffers. Instead, focus your attention on the personal income tax cuts and the corporate tax exemptions the Legislature has approved in years past.
But that's what the people wanted.