The time has come to stop blaming Bobby Jindal. (Yeah, I know, I probably won’t. The man simply spread too much carnage during his eight clueless years occupying one office in theory while running for another in runaway delusional fantasy.)
But now it’s a new day and the torch of ineptness has been passed to his enablers, holdover members of the Louisiana House and Senate.
Legislators convened in Baton Rouge Sunday in special session to address a $900 million budget deficit for the remainder of this fiscal year and to take steps to head off a $2 billion budgetary shortfall for the next fiscal year, which begins July 1.
They have one chance to get it right. One chance, and one only.
If their performance over the last eight years is any indication, they won’t. Here’s why:
|Louisiana elected officials who have signed the Americans for Tax Reform pledge|
|Paul Hollis*||State Representative||Republican|
|John Alario||State Senate President||Republican|
|Jack Donahue||State Senate Finance chairman||Republican|
|Gerald Long||State Senator||Republican|
|Fred Mills||State Senator||Republican|
|Barrow Peacock||State Senator||Republican|
|John Smith||State Senator||Republican|
|Steve Carter||State Representative||Republican|
|Greg Cromer||State Representative||Republican|
|Cameron Henry||State Representative||Republican|
|Dorothy Hill||State Representative||Democrat|
|Valarie Hodges||State Representative||Republican|
|Sam Jones||State Representative||Democrat|
|Dee Richard||State Representative||No Party|
|Alan Seabaugh||State Representative||Republican|
|Scott Simon||State Representative||Republican|
|John Schroder||State Representative||Republican|
|Kirk Talbot||State Representative||Republican|
*Paul Hollis signed the federal Americans for Tax Reform pledge when he was running for U.S. Senate. He is not listed as one of the people who signed onto the state government pledge.
These are returning legislators who swore an oath to a man who does not live in Louisiana, who has never held office. Yet, he appears to command loyalty from a handful of legislators who feel it is more important to serve his interests over those of their constituents, the ones who elected them to office. (Rep. Dee Richard of Thibodaux told LouisianaVoice last year that when he signed the pledge, he had no idea who Norquist was and had never heard of him.)
The late C.B. Forgotston called it “the lowest of a lot of low points” in Louisiana’s sorry legislative history. He said legislators, who had “already abdicated their constitutional responsibility to Bobby Jindal” were pleading with a non-resident of Louisiana “for help doing their jobs.”
Eleven state representatives—we called them “The Elastic Eleven” at the time—turned their collective backs on their constituents in particular and on the state in general in order to suck up to Norquist and to advance their own political agenda. In short, they were afraid to take a bathroom break without Norquist’s permission.
Their letter to Grover Norquist sought his blessing before they voted to pass the Student Assessment for Valuable Education, or SAVE credit program, which created money out of thin air via a higher education tax credit to cover a nonexistent student fee. https://louisianavoice.com/2015/06/08/eleven-republican-members-of-house-ways-and-means-committee-go-groveling-to-grover-norquist-for-direction/
Now, thanks to that little shell game, Louisiana’s colleges and universities teeter on the brink of unmitigated disaster. It’s not as if we were never warned: https://louisianavoice.com/2015/06/05/save-guest-columnist-wonders-if-grover-norquist-holding-compromising-videos-of-louisiana-legislators-bobby-jindal/
So why should we expect a different outcome now?
For one thing, we no longer have a delusional governor hell bent on leaving Louisiana in the broad daylight for the White House. Now we have a grownup on the fourth floor and not a gaggle of adolescent Milton Friedman theorists who refuse to acknowledge the obvious.
LouisianaVoice offers a guest column by Dayne Sherman on the threat to higher education as well as this link to Stephen Sabludowsky’s Bayou Buzz political blog: http://www.bayoubuzz.com/bb/item/1061467-jon-bel-edwards-dogged-by-kill-lsu-save-the-tigers-mentality
Dayne Sherman resides in Ponchatoula. He is the author of two novels and he blogs at http://talkaboutthesouth.com/
Below is his guest column:
Don’t blame the messenger for TOPS crisis
Similar to Rip Van Winkle, Louisiana just awoke from a long sleep. Eight years to be exact. While Jindal wrecked the state, the citizens snoozed, except for a few political watchdogs here and there howling in the night to no avail.
The moment Louisiana resurrected was Thursday, Feb. 11 at 4 PM. Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards announced TOPS payments to universities were being suspended. TOPS, college scholarships, is the most beloved socialist welfare program in Louisiana history.
Residents went from deep slumber to screaming in minutes. With college football also on the chopping block, we now know the dead can indeed rise from the grave.
It’s time to face the facts. Louisiana has an enormous structural deficit, approximately $1 billion this year, and $2 billion next fiscal year.
However, despite a Republican governor in Jindal and a Republican dominated House and Senate who created this fiscal crisis, some are incredibly, amazingly, and even ignorantly blaming the new governor—just a month in office—for these cuts.
It can’t be said enough, as everyone should realize, Jindal and the senators and representatives we elected are to blame for this fiasco. John Bel Edwards was one of those heralding voices who fought the foolishness, and he was elected to fix the mess.
Look, Edwards wants to protect TOPS and higher education. But Louisiana can’t cut its way to prosperity, nor can the state print money. The special legislative session ironically starts on Valentine’s Day, though love will not be in the air.
This budget crisis can be fixed with responsible tax increases and realistic cuts, which is all Edwards has suggested. It’s simple but will take intestinal fortitude.
The Republicans in the House, led by Taylor Barras (the figurehead Speaker) and Cameron Henry (the real Speaker), have done nothing but try to hamstring the Edwards administration in order to score political points. Sources say plans have been crafted to end the session as soon as it starts and go home with nothing accomplished as a way to cripple the new governor.
Therefore, I am calling for a new Speaker vote on the first day of the session. Remove Barras and send Henry to the kiddie table where he belongs. I don’t care which Republican takes the helm, as long as he or she is willing to work with Edwards and quit playing obstructionist games detrimental to Louisiana.
My advice for those who care about Louisiana is to go see their legislators. Look them straight in the eye and say the Washington-style politics is over. Fix the budget and protect TOPS or resign. Raise taxes, craft a responsible budget, and save the state. No more failures. No more excuses. Put Louisiana first.