Louisiana was named “America’s least financially literate state.”1 Perhaps that’s why Gov. John Bel Edwards has such a difficult time creating a budget for the state that isn’t such a financial mess. At least that would be a believable excuse.
John Bel Edwards’ first budget had more state tax dollars than any state budget in Louisiana history.
John Bel Edwards’ first budget had more state tax dollars than any state budget in Louisiana history. It was one of the largest, rivaled only by the budgets after hurricanes Katrina and Rita, and those budgets were propped up by massive amounts of federal relief dollars. It’s hard to understand why our budget has ballooned so large. Louisiana’s population has basically remained unchanged over the past 10 years,3 yet the budget was about $3 billion more than the previous fiscal year.
And included in the bloated budget was a historic $2.4 billion increase in taxes and fees.2
By now, we’ve begun to recognize the pattern. Gov. Edwards has made it his specialty; talk to the media and issue dire pronouncements about cutting essential or beloved services in the next budget:
Louisiana governor: Budget crisis threatens future of college sports4
John Bel Edwards warns safety net hospitals won’t survive budget cuts5
TOPS cuts hit 66 percent in John Bel Edwards’ budget proposal6
And the drumbeat for raising taxes begins.
Most taxpayers would be shocked to learn that despite pleading poverty, Louisiana spends more per person than any neighboring state. It’s clear we have a spending problem. We spend $5,599 per person in Louisiana versus $4,010 per person spent by other states in the Southeast.7
Taxpayers might also be a little surprised to learn that while some get threats of cuts, other people get raises. Our honorable governor broke a campaign promise in order to reward his own staff with raises that boost the state budget.
“We’re not going to pay the same salaries that Bobby Jindal’s been paying. They’re exorbitant. They’re too high. We’re going to reduce those costs right off the top,” Edwards said. But since he moved into the Governor’s Office, Edwards has kept most of those salaries in place and hiked them even more in some instances.8
The budget shows other signs of spending problems too. The Division of Administration is a good example. The Division manages the daily operations of state government and operates as the state’s accountant, working directly for the governor.
The Division’s budget has grown 169 percent over the past decade. It’s now an astounding $395 million. That’s a 14 percent increase per year on average.9 Did you get a 14 percent raise this year?
Or consider these facts:
- 22 percent of Louisiana’s classified civil service managers manage only one employee
- Louisiana has 19,000 outside consulting contracts
- $830 million per year is wasted on fraudulent Medicaid payments alone10
Taxpayers are rightly beginning to wonder, is this really a deficit crisis? Didn’t we just raise taxes $2.4 billion and record a 27 percent increase in state revenue in November?11
It’s time for the governor to show leadership, instead of making threats — to ramp up his fiscal literacy and create a real budget, instead of one that taxes and spends without concern for the future.