The doomsayer pundits and politicos in Louisiana are warning us that we are headed for the great economic abyss in our beloved pelican state, since the upcoming state budget will have to be slashed by $1.6 Billion (yep boys and girls, that’s B for Billion!) for the upcoming fiscal year.
This so-called cliff year (as in Wiley Coyote’s perpetual over the cliff demise has been caused by the toxic combination of the end of federal stimulus dollars (gee, does that mean that Bobby Jindal will no longer get to present golf tourney sized checks to the fire and water districts throughout the state, while simultaneously wailing against the federal stimulus plan?!?) coupled with declining sales tax and oil royalty revenues.
But, just a casual look throughout the state clearly calls into question the veracity of the alleged on-coming fiscal Armageddon.
While you can count me in that number of those whose fall weekends are spent in either anger or ecstasy prompted by the travails of our gridiron heroes, the money expended by the state to financially support our pigskin endeavors is mindboggling.
First, there is the highest paid public servant in he history of our woebegone state, Les Miles, the head football coach at L.S.U. At a salary of $3.7 million annually, you would think that little things like end of the game clock management, would not become the herculean task that has beset my beloved Tigers under the Miles regime. And, at that salary level, you would believe that minimal mastery of the English language would be a requirement. But, with our $3million man, tongue twisters have become a common occurrence at his press conferences. “The want to get the personnel on the field, took precedence over the clock in the mind’s eye of the play caller,” was Miles’ defense of the Keystone cops-esque debacle at the end of last Saturday’s game against Tennessee. I guess 3.7 large just doesn’t get the quality of employee that it used to anymore.
But, our pigskin financial follies don’t stop at the collegiate ranks. In an effort to satiate our populace’s pro football fix, the state has entered into a deal with that ole car dealer, Tom Benson, under which the state, amongst other things, has agreed to lease over 300,000 square feet of office space at a downtown New Orleans office building owned by Benson. This rental space will cost the state a tidy $2.5 million per year more than what the state is currently expending for comparable space. In exchange for the state’s largesse to Tommy boy, us Who Dats are guaranteed to be able to march with the home team until the year 2025. By that time, the state will have paid Benson $34 million above present market rental rates, in exchange for giving us the right to enjoy the black and gold.
Financial hijinks aren’t limited to the gridiron in Louisiana however; our state’s office of the Lieutenant Governor, accounts for $12 million annually of the state’s budget. For that, we get not just the person who is a heartbeat away from the governor’s office, but a glorified public relations master, since the Lieutenant Governor’s primary function is to promote the state’s tourism and culture. Makes you wonder why in this past Saturday’s election to fill the vacant seat, we agonized over candidates whose resume included the current Secretary of State, a personal injury lawyer, and the St. Tammany Parish president. I guess the heads of advertising agencies weren’t enticed by the glamour of the office. Also, makes you wonder if our state would be better served by eliminating this office and hiring a p.r. firm, at a lower cost, to tout our vacation paradise. Not only would you cut $12 million from the budget, but also would save the cost of having to conduct two statewide elections to fill this mostly ceremonial office, with the estimated cost of each election at slightly more than $1 million. Of course, the last legislative effort to abolish this office was defeated, and the opoosition ranks included none other than the current vote leader in the run-off election, Jay Dardenne.
Will the aforementioned financial extravagances cover the chasm caused by a $1.6 billion shortfall? Of course not. But, they are emblematic of a state budget that is bloated with non-essential creature comforts. Frankly, we are at a cross-roads in the history of our state. Since the days of the Long dynasty in state government, we have held to a populist credo and have looked to state government to cure whatever ails us; whether it be a job or a football team. When the state was flush with revenues its oil and gas royalties, or from the federal government, high times were had by all. But now, much like a Monday morning following a long weekend binge, we awaken and promise to swear off the excesses. Unfortunately, unlike most of us who find ourselves perpetually playing out these Monday morning confessionals, this time, a $1.6 billion gorilla is in the room to ensure that the days of excess are gone.