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Story Archives: Plausible idea but waste of time
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|Plausible idea but waste of time|
Much has been said and written about the work that the two commissions charged with identifying cuts in state expenditures have explored and most likely will explore in the months leading up to the 2010 regular legislative session.
However, the obvious has been overlooked.
Hold that thought for a moment.
Earlier this year, state lawmakers approved legislation that established two review panels, or commissions. One of them is the Commission on Streamlining Government. The other one is the Postsecondary Education Review Commission. The commissions were assigned to determine ways the state could cut costs in light of an anticipated $1 billion budget shortfall in the 2010-2011 fiscal year. An anticipated $2 billion budget shortfall looms for the 2011-2012 fiscal year.
Obviously, the Postsecondary Education Review Commission must look into cutting expenditures at the state's colleges and universities. Meanwhile, the Commission on Streamlining Government must -- you guessed it -- find ways the state can save money in its day-to-day operations and beyond, though the streamlining commission is not to be confused and/or overlap with the postsecondary education commission.
In September, Gov. Bobby Jindal wrote letters to the two commissions thanking members for agreeing to serve. He also outlined what he expected the commissions to accomplish. To surmise, Jindal told the commissions to find some $1 billion in cuts -- roughly $800 million and some change at the streamlining commission and some $150 million at the postsecondary review commission. We have to assume those cuts, or caps on expenditures, would remain in place -- beginning with the 2010-2011 fiscal year -- until the Legislature lifted them.
That said, it's worth noting that the commissions simply will craft cost-saving plans for the Legislature to consider when it meets again, the 2010 Regular Session. In other words, state lawmakers will have the final say in what and who gets cut.
It's very important that we don't overlook the role the Legislature will play in all of this streamlining and whatnot. The whatnot is what's important.
The whatnot would entail various special interests (colleges, universities, state employees, various state agencies, etc.) prevailing upon the Legislature to spare their particular interest from cuts state lawmakers would be expected to make in light of the commissions' work. I can hear it now. Don't cut you and don't cut me. Cut that fellow behind the tree. The phrase "pass the buck" comes to mind.
Though the idea of establishing so-called blue ribbon panels to make recommendations on cuts in state expenses is plausible, it represents a shirking of responsibility, if you will.
A governor proposes a budget for the Legislature to consider. The Legislature tinkers with it and eventually approves a budget for a governor to sign into law. Budgets that governors propose usually are mirror images of the budgets state lawmakers approve. You may hear or read of bellyaching by lawmakers over a governor's proposed budget, but in the end, or at the end of any given legislative session, lawmakers will pass the budget a governor proposes.
In light of that brief lesson on politics at the capitol in Baton Rouge, the Legislature and Jindal don't need commissions to tell them how to do their jobs. That's especially true since it is within reason to speculate that the Legislature and Jindal will act on little the streamlining and postsecondary education commissions will propose in the spring.
Instead, we could save some time and energy if Jindal would simply outline the budget cuts he desires and force the Legislature to act on them. After all, Jindal is the governor. He's a popular and talented governor, too.
If he'll lead on the budgetary front, the people will follow him. That means the Legislature will fall in line as well.
But don't hold your breath.
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