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|Kennedy's plan makes sense|
State Treasurer John Kennedy presents a convincing argument for how Louisiana could fairly easily avoid a fiscal meltdown in the very near future.
Before we reflect upon Kennedy's take on everything fiscal, let us recall that the Jindal administration and the Legislature most likely will face a $2 billion budget shortfall over the next two years. It could run as high as $3 billion. We'll stick with the $2 billion figure for now. After all, what's $1 billion anyway in this day and age of $30 billion budgets in Louisiana?
There are a host of reasons why the state is headed down the proverbial path of budget shortfalls while arguments run the gamut to either implement cuts in state services or raise taxes on everything under the sun to avoid those cuts. At the core of the budget problem sits a simple decline in tax revenues thanks to a lackluster economy throughout the nation. Yes, Louisiana is suffering, too, though one who makes his or her living on the hind teat of government may not realize yet. They will in time.
In a casual set-to earlier this week, Kennedy outlined his proposal for Louisiana to get its financial house in order void of raising taxes, which, according to Kennedy, would be worst step Louisiana could take to balance its budgets in fiscal years 2010-2011 and 2011-2012.
Remember, Kennedy chairs the so-called Benchmarking and Efficiency Sub Committee for the Commission on Streamlining Government. The commission is the brainchild of Sen. Jack Donahue, a Republican from Mandeville in conservative St. Tammany Parish.
Donahue authored the legislation to create the streamlining commission, which the Legislature approved during the 2009 Regular Session. Somehow or another Kennedy was tapped to chair the sub committee on benchmarking and efficiency, which, in my view, is right up Kennedy's alley since he serves as state Treasurer in Louisiana.
Be that as it may, Kennedy recently generated a buzz in the media over his remark about reducing the number of state employees by 15,000 over three years. He says it can be accomplished through attrition, meaning as people leave state jobs for one reason or another their positions would not be filled by a new hire. If Louisiana reduced the number people who work for the state by 15,000, the state would employ roughly the same number of people as other southern states. At least that's what Kennedy says.
Yet, Kennedy's talk about reducing the number of state employees is insignificant if one would take the time to consider the thrust of his argument to reign in state spending for the long haul.
According to Kennedy, there exist 380 special funds in state government that are dedicated by statute. In other words, the Legislature created the funds and appropriates the money each year to finance those funds.
Before we go any further, let's not confuse appropriations for the 380 special funds with appropriations that are dedicated constitutionally.
Kennedy thinks Louisiana has too many special funds. He believes every single one of those special funds should be abolished.
That does not mean Kennedy desires to see the state turn its back on appropriating money for special funds that actually work in the best interest of the people. Instead, Kennedy believes the people who are responsible for overseeing those special funds should appear before the Legislature to make their cases for why their special funds should be, pardon the pun, funded by the Legislature. In Kennedy's view, that's the fairest manner in which to force a special interest in government to justify its existence.
"I'm not prepared to say all of those dedications (special funds) are wrong," Kennedy said. "I am prepared to say all of those dedications should be reexamined."
Though he probably realizes it, Kennedy's call for bureaucrats to appear before a legislative committee or committees to explain why a particular function of government should continue to be funded by the Legislature won't sit well with bureaucrats. Remember, many of those bureaucrats have jobs solely because the Legislature appropriates the money to pay his or her salary as well as provide the monies to operate the arm of government in which a particular bureaucrat works.
Still, Kennedy's proposal to reexamine all of those special funds, or dedications, makes perfect sense. He knows it, and I suspect most Louisianians would agree with him. I do.
The problem with Kennedy's proposal, though, is it would entail members of the Legislature ignoring pleas for mercy as they decided the fate of a government program and the good, or lack thereof, it created for the people. Therein lies the rub. The people often hear pleas for mercy as they decide the fate of a politician's career in government.
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