Government Budgeting for Dummies — Part 1 Tuesday, Sep 29 2015 

Government budgeting for dummies

Assigned reading for leges

In the late 70s, I worked for the Louisiana House Appropriations Committee.   One year Dr. Ralph Waldo Emerson Jones, then-president of Grambling University, came before the committee to present his budget.

“Prez” as he was affectionately known to everyone handed out his budget for discussion.  Immediately, the committee members recognized that the difference between proposed expenditures and expected revenues showed a deficit of several hundred thousand dollars.

Prez” just smiled.  He said you asked me to present a budget necessary for operating Grambling.  He also knew the reality of being able to get the necessary funds were highly unlikely. Rarely, did the lege give any state agency the amount of money they requested because they were known to be inflated.

Budgeting was a game played with the leges. The agency head usually overestimated their budget needs by 20%, knowing it would be cut by 10% which was still 5% more than they needed.

After the agencies received their extra 5% (with no explanation requires, merely rationale) they immediately begin a public relations campaign saying their budget had been cut.  While their inflated budget request was cut.  In reality, they got a 5% increase over the previous year.

This game allowed the leges to tell their constituents they were being fiscally-responsible with our tax dollars.  Nevertheless, the state budget grew annually and public services grew worse (i.e. highways, bridges, driver’s licenses, etc.). This process is called “incremental budgeting”  for which there is no benefit to the citizens.

If this type of game was played in the private sector, the department head would be summarily fired.

By telling the truth, “Prez” left the committee with the money he “needed” to run Grambling.   Of course, in those days, higher education was a true priority and not merely bait to raise taxes.  Today, there’s not a single Louisiana college president worthy of carrying “Prez’s” briefcase.

More of the budget game later.


No more excuses Monday, Sep 28 2015 

Bill comes due

Lege just sent us another bill

Last week we learned that the State Budget for the fiscal year that ended on June 30 has a deficit of somewhere between $50 Million and $100 Million or possibly more.

Just as day follows night, the Jindal Administration refused accept any responsibility for the problem. According to the story in the Associated Press, it’s our fault.   Or at least the fault of those who took advantage of tax credits that were made available to them by the Lege.

This is not to defend those credits or any credits.   If we had a business-friendly tax code, there would be no need for special exemptions, credits, offsets, rebates or whatever.

My point is that going into the 8th year of budgets by the Jindal Administration; they haven’t learned a damn thing about preparing budgets or at least haven’t learned to be candid with the public.

Common sense or lottery

Even those of us on fixed incomes or living paycheck-to-paycheck have learned there will always be unexpected expenses and unexpected declines in revenues.   Those who can afford to (the state certainly can) wisely don’t budget to spend every dime they expect to receive.  It’s just common sense.

Those who don’t or can’t budget wisely are the ones who play the lottery every week hoping to win enough to pay their bills.  The state is no different, except that the state is not allowed to play the lottery, but the thought process is the same.

The state, on the other hand, annually budgets for things like sales of property for which there is not even an offer; revenues from litigation that is still on appeal, etc.  That’s no different than playing the lottery, except we know someone will eventually win the lottery.

Fool’s gold

When the above budget gimmicks don’t work, Team Jindal and the leges resort to amorphous “efficiencies” (a.k.a. as “Fools Gold.”) usually in the hundreds of millions of dollars.  The best part about the “Fools Gold”  it is not possible for the lege fiscal staffs or the Revenue Estimating Conference to determine if the efficiencies have been put into effect and, if they are, how much they are saving.

Just as likely, it was the failure of those efficiencies to be implemented as the film or other credits that caused the deficit in last year’s budget.

In the current year’s budget (began July 1), the leges knowingly omitted over $300 Million in known healthcare mandates.  In other words, when the leges voted on the budget, they voted on an unconstitutionally-balanced, budget that guaranteed a deficit and mid-year cuts.


All of the above gimmicks are known to the Jindal Administration and the leges.  At least a majority of the leges voted for them.

If your lege tells you they didn’t know about the gimmicks, ask if they voted to approve the budget.  If they did, it’s their fault for not reading and paying attention.   Nobody else is to blame and certainly not us taxpayers.  Here’s the links to the votes on the current Operating Budget: House and Senate

The point is, the leges needed to stop trying to deceive the public into believing the state chronic fiscal problems are caused by anything other than their mismanagement of the budget.  It’s malfeasance.

It’s time for us to stop listening to excuses and start holding the leges accountable.  It is insulting to our intelligence.



Recipe for Status Quo Monday, Sep 14 2015 


New Interstate sign to La. Capitol

After qualifying for the lege ended Thursday, it is clear that roughly 75% of those responsible for the current fiscal problems in Louisiana will be in their lege seats next year.  Some may be in different seats, but they are the same people.

Worse, nearly a majority of those 75% are term-limited.

As Senator Robert Adley once said in a rare moment of candor: “Right now I’m your worst nightmare. I’m a term-limited senator. I can do any damn thing I want.” LaPolitics Weekly, May 13, 2015.

While the new crop of term-limited leges may not be as candid as Adley, as of 4:30 PM Thursday the ability of us citizens to impact how they vote is slim to none.

We’ve heard from the four major candidates for governor their plan to fix our state’s chronic fiscal problems will be to call a Special Lege Session.

That’s the only thing of significance the new governor can accomplish without at least a majority of the leges.

Most of the returning leges have a proven track record of addressing the state’s budgetary problems solely through increased taxes and spending one-time funds on recurring expenses.

As of today, there are 119 days before the next gubernatorial administration assumes responsibility for running our state.  To my knowledge, the gubernatorial candidates, the leges nor any of the “special interests” groups have a specific plan to fix the chronic fiscal problems nor do they have a plan to get the leges to pass it.

Anticipating another note from Grover Norquist and others, about where’s my plan go here.

In summary, as of 4:30 PM on Thursday, we were given a political recipe for the status quo in Louisiana.


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