Lege titles or leaders? Thursday, Oct 1 2015 

Leadership Vacuum



Reporter Tyler Bridges writes about a quiet campaign that is going on among the members of the La. House of Representatives for Speaker of the House.  While it may appear insignificant to the public, it is distracting from addressing the serious issues facing the state.  See story here.

Unlike nobility, titles are not required to lead in politics. Leadership is not about having a big office, a prominent parking spot, lots of staff, having lunch at the Mansion, campaign contributions, tax-payer funded junkets, the next political office and people kissing your ass.

True leaders usually emerge out of necessity.   Currently, there is a vacuum of leadership in the  Lege and Executive  Branch.

Bobby Jindal was elected governor twice, but he has been no leader.  Speaker Chuck Kleckley has held the title of Speaker, but he was no leader. Neither is Senate President John Alario.  If they were truly leaders, they would have resolved the problems that have plagued the state for eight years.

Instead of running around the state making deals for committee assignments, etc., to gain the title of Speaker, a true leader would use the next three months to develop a plan and the votes to address the chronic fiscal problems facing a state for the last 8 years.

A true leader would be meeting with like-minded members of leges (House and Senate), the lege staff and other experts to develop a plan to fix the state’s chronic fiscal problems.

Perhaps that person might emerge with the title of Speaker, but it would be incidental to their work, not the goal.

We don’t need leges with titles we need leges who are leaders.


The past is prologue Wednesday, Sep 30 2015 


Same old same old

Traditionally, around this time of year every four years those who pay attention to state government begin to think optimistically about the positive changes that will come with the election of a new governor and new legislators.

This year, I don’t find any optimism among the public or the public officials.  The public has been down this road so often all they see is the lean hogs moving the fat hogs away from the trough.

Where’s the beef?

As to those running for public office, they are doing a good job of regurgitating the state’s problems and telling us what’s wrong with their opponents.   None have offered any specifics that even come close to being realistic solutions.   They are simply pandering.

Everything the pols want to accomplish requires more money in spite of a structural deficit of nearly $2 Billion which is conveniently omitted from their ads.

Lege focus

Each time I discuss a tough budget issue with a reelected incumbent lege, they try very hard not laugh in my face, but they make it clear my suggestions are not “politically-doable.”  That’s political-speak for we don’t have the courage.

Currently, the focus of the newly-elected House members is on who will be the next Speaker and what committee assignments they will get if they support the winner.  That focus will preoccupy them until January 11, 2016, when they are sworn-in and select their officers.

It is a foregone conclusion that Sen. John Alario will be the senate prez.  No change there.  The rest of the elected senators’ rationalize doing nothing is that all the legislation to resolve the fiscal problems must originate in the House so they will react when they see it.  That’s not leadership.

A fractured House

To make matters worse, the Democrat and Republican leges are divided among themselves into factions.  I’m informed there are three factions among the Black Caucus and up to 5 factions among the Republican Caucus (Sounds like D.C.?).  None of the divisions are about issues, but about personalities.

Other factors

The private sector business groups claiming to have plans for the state’s budget problems can’t get past platitudes.  Why?  Because once the details are put on the table they dissolve into more factions than the House.

Other more highly-focused special interest groups are only focused on their single issue and don’t give a damn how getting what they want impacts the overall state problems.


Unfortunately, regardless of who is our next governor, with most of the incumbent leges returning, the political courage and leadership necessary to actually fix the fiscal problems is not there.

Now, take your best shot at this messenger.


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.


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