Fiscal Myopia: Legislative Nearsightedness

Aug 14, 2017

Having worn glasses since I was six years old, I'm very familiar with myopia, which is also known as nearsightedness. Lately it seems some lawmakers have it, too, when it comes to Louisiana's fiscal issues.


As Monroe Representative Marcus Hunter observed near the end of this year's legislative session, many of his peers in the House spend their time in Baton Rouge, “Sitting here with their head in the sand, thinking about today and just trying to get through this budget and get home.”

Republican Representative Blake Miguez of New Iberia admits he has noticed the myopia, as well.

“We always discuss what can we do to solve the budget shortfall today, so we can constitutionally balance our budget today,” Miguez says.

Governor John Bel Edwards says he thinks some legislators are hiding their vision problems behind rose-colored glasses.

“Legislators are somehow hoping that money is just going to show up,” the governor has observed.

Some think if they squint hard enough at the revenue numbers, it will all come into focus.

“It would be a lot better to have real numbers, instead of these inflated projected numbers that just scares everybody,” Jonesboro Senato Jim Fannin said during a Joint Legislive Committee on the Budget hearing last week.

While Slidell Senator Sharon Hewitt remarked, “Who the heck really knows what the real number is?”

Some in House leadership, like Appropriations chairman Cameron Henry and Republican Caucus chair Lance Harris, have been holding out for surgery – cuts – to correct their vision.

“On this side, some of us are trying to hold back some of that money – not appropriate it all – to where we can put ourselves in a better fiscal position moving forward,” Henry said of his proposal to not spend all the available money in the current budget.

“The state is in peril with a fiscal cliff, and that’s what we’re trying to address by appropriating less,” Harris agreed.

But Commissioner of Administration Jay Dardenne notes that those leading still aren't clearly seeing what's ahead, which poses a danger to those who are required to follow.

“Thus far there has been no action to deal with the cliff, and come July 1, we are all tumbling off together,” Dardenne told a group of business people last week.

 

Tomorrow we'll examine the view from the edge of the fiscal cliff.