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Budget Battle Cry
GOP Treasurer Sideswipes Jindal Over 'Fond Illusion'
When it comes to the state's huge budget hole, John Kennedy isn't pursing his lips.
Louisiana lawmakers continue to debate and grind out the best ways of balancing the state budget, and State Treasurer John Kennedy released a public statement on the current proposal heading to the State legislature's floor, calling it, "A Fond Illusion."
Kennedy, a Republican now serving his fourth term as the State's Treasurer, oversees the $10.6 billion of investments held by the State of Louisiana. He is the man responsible for the safe keeping and disbursement of public money. This might be why Kennedy felt compelled to release a statement on March 4, detailing his professional opinion of the Jindal administration's proposed budget. It wasn't good.
"Call this budget what you like: a fond illusion or smart accounting," Treasurer Kennedy wrote. "The result will be the same: mid-year budget cuts for the sixth year in a row, because the budget is not balanced. Why should we care? Because making a college cut $10 million with six months left in the fiscal year is like a $20 million cut from day one. That shreds muscle, not fat."
Kennedy, who is no stranger to criticizing the Gov, paints a vivid picture of the current attempts to balance out budget deficits, by comparing the tactics being used by Government to poor finance choices when attempting to pay off a car loan—ideas such as taking out a cash advance, asking your school aged children to pay rent, or attempting to sell a boat (or bond?) for far more than its estimated value.
"Your plan may work-for a while," Kennedy says. "Then, as sure as 'eggs is eggs,' you'll go broke, just like Louisiana eventually will if the legislature passes the Jindal Administration's proposed— yet again—unbalanced budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1."
This analysis is in stark contrast to the images Jindal has been creating of the Louisiana economy in the national press—citing, "incredible progress growing our economy." Even more so because of Jindal's proposal to cut the private and business income taxes for the State.
Kennedy them surmised his argument by saying, "There's a better way. It's not complicated: don't spend more than you take in, and when you do spend money, spend it on things you need, not things you simply want. Louisiana families know that. So do Louisiana businesses. Why can't government figure it out?"
All the more ironic really, given how much Jindal has been sniping up at the White House and President Obama (both in the press and in social media) about uncontrolled spending and an unwieldy and growing government.
"...the Obama years will be remembered as the Era of Government Greed," Gov. Jindal recently wrote. "There isn’t a problem President Obama thinks can’t be solved by more taxes and more spending. His solution is always to take more money out of the American economy and put it into the government."
"It’s time for [the President] to send to Congress a list of reductions that preserves critical services," Jindal wrote in the National Review. "Every governor has had to balance budgets during tough economic times...It’s time for the president to stop campaigning, stop deploying scare tactics, and do his job."
Like he's been doing with his plan to axe the state income tax, Gov. Jindal deployed the Division of Administration to respond Treasurer's statements, the Division of Administration has.
The Division of Administration performs a wide-range of tasks, including general management of all state finances, preparing the Executive Budget and the Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR). The Commissioner of Administration, Kristy Nichols, responded the Treasurer's statement, detailing and dismissing each of Kennedy's arguments and analogies, point for point.
“The reality is that the budget is balanced, makes state government more effective and less expensive for taxpayers and continues to help foster an environment where businesses want to invest and create jobs," Nichols said. "At the same time, our budget also protects K-12 schools, colleges and universities and healthcare services.”
And keeping it above the belt, Nichols almost right out the gate pointed out that the Treasurer is showing his political motivations in some of his points (in this case the Hospital bond funding issue) and Nichols also alleges the treasurer's incompetence.
"Treasurer Kennedy reveals himself to be an opponent of reforming the old Charity Hospital model, not to mention that he apparently does not know how to read the budget."
Nichols goes on to detail the figures the administration has on the Hospital funding, which is far less than the $800 million Kennedy cites. She also defends several of the other ideas ridiculed by Treasurer Kennedy, including selling assets above the appraised value.
"Again, the Treasurer exposes himself as a big government defender of the status quo who would rather keep underutilized property in government’s hands instead of downsizing government’s footprint and returning the property to the private sector."
As the budget is continually hashed out between now and July (when the next fiscal budget kicks in) funding, bond sales, and tax cuts will continue to cause debate on how best to improve the state of the State.
Here's the full documents, as released by Kennedy and Nichols:
First, the Treasurer:
And, the Jindal Administration:
Evan Z.E. Hammond, Dead Huey, Andrew Smith
Michael Weber, B.A.
B. E. Mintz