Tuesday, August 3, 2010

A state crisis of unprecedented severity

The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities has issued a sobering report entitled "Recession Continues to Batter State Budgets; State Responses Could Slow Recovery." The gist of the story is that the recession "has caused the steepest decline in state tax receipts on record...a state fiscal crisis of unprecedented severity"

There are charts and graphs that display what we in Louisiana already know: there's not enough money in state coffers to provide the services our people need.

The solution, according to the report is a mix of spending cuts and revenue measures: "At the state level, a balanced approach to closing deficits — raising taxes along with enacting budget cuts — is needed to close state budget gaps in order to maintain important services while minimizing harmful effects on the economy."

Thus far in Louisiana, all the emphasis has been on spending cuts. Governor (and wannabe President) Bobby Jindal is focused on cuts and phobic on revenues to the point of obsession.

Which brings us to today's editorial in The Advocate. In this case, the Gray Lady of Baton Rouge seems to be a lone voice of reason, with most newspapers in the state parroting the governor's anti-tax blather.

The editorial points once again to the Louisiana Budget Project's contention that many of the Louisiana's 440-some odd tax exemptions are not just unnecessary, but are harmful to development in the state.

"Repealing or suspending some of the worst offenders is the easiest way to raise revenue, and utterly defensible even to anti-tax Republicans," says the editorial. "After all, it's not 'new taxes'."

It's a good argument, but will it wash in the coming legislative fiscal session, which just happens to precede state elections? Lawmakers will be in a tough spot, faced on one hand by the decimation of services our people need, and on the other by opponents champing at the bit to paint them as "tax and spenders."

Which will prevail? Doing what's right for the people of Louisiana, or doing what seems necessary to be reelected?

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