$28 Billion Decision in 1 Hour? Sunday, Jun 28 2009 

 timeandmoney

What took place in the final hour of last week’s 2009 Louisiana Regular Legislative Session was insane at best.  Who on earth would sign a $28 billion budget in less than an hour?   

The money in the capital outlay budget is, simply put,  yours – tax dollars from your hard-earned money. 

How someone spends other people’s money is very telling.

When private citizens misuse their employer’s finances, they are charged with various crimes, required to pay restitution and/or serve prison time.  Yet, legislators get a free pass should they mishandle state funds. 

Even if they break a promise they made to their employer – you.  Instead of ‘doing more with less’ as legislators promised to do, they spent $28 billion of their employer’s money.

We can’t undo what our elected officials have done, but can only hope that we live long enough to witness prudence in legislative spending one day.

Let’s see how much funding landed in the Red Stick coffers.  (Monies for facilities located in the parish that are state-specific are not included in the list below.  They include facilities such as:  LSU, Southern, DOTD, CRT, Homeland Security, the Old State Capitol, State of Louisiana Offices or facilities, School for the Deaf, School for the Visually Impaired, airport, the Port of Greater Baton Rouge, levees, etc.)

  • $16,000,000 Pennington Biomedical (page 43)
  • $13,500,000 Comite River Diversion Canal (page 28)
  • $6,000,000 19th Judicial Court House (page 123)
  • $5,455,000 La 3030 Road Improvements (page 25)
  • $4,600,000 River Center Expansion, Renovation, Parking (page 80)
  • $4,000,000 Capitol City Family Health Center (page 112)
  • $4,000,000 Pecue Lane / I-10 Exchange (page 26)
  • $4,000,000 I-12 to O’Neal Lane Widening (page 27)
  • $3,000,000 Baker Fire Station (page 79)
  • $2,600,000 Office of Homeland Security (page 17)
  • $2,275,000 Zachary Sewer Programs (page 108)
  • $1,440,000 Black History Museum & Cultural Center (page 119)
  • $1,400,000 Baseball Stadium Improvements (page 80)
  • $1,325,000 BREC’s Anna T. Jordan Site & Facility (page 114)
  • $1,160,000 BREC’s Bluebonnet Swamp Nature Center (page 114)
  • $1,000,000 Stumberg Lane to Jefferson & Airline (page 80)
  • $1,000,000 Athletic Education & Band Center (page 125)
  • $875,000 BREC Children’s Museum (page 114)
  • $850,000 YMCA North Baton Rouge (page 113)
  • $700,000 Old Goodwood Sewer Improvements (page 80)
  • $600,000 Hooper Road Sewer Improvements (page 79)
  • $400,000 USDA Biological Facility (page 129)
  • $310,000 Fire Marshall (page 32)
  • $300,000 LASC (page 14)
  • $250,000 CASA Facility (page 116)
  • $200,000 Hwy 19 Lane Improvements (page 16)
  • $198,361 Visitor Signage (page 80)
  • $190,000 Crime Lab Expansion (page 34)
  • $155,000 McKinley High (page 112)
  • $140,000 Annison Plantation Renovation (page 108)
  • $100,000 Central Administration Building (page 108)
  • $100,000 BREC’s Rollins Road Park Basketball Court Cover (page 114)
  • $90,000 Progress 63 Senior, Veteran, Tutoring Center (page 132)
  • $75,000 Stanford Avenue Sidewalk Widening (page 80)
  • $75,000 Pride Fire Station (page 80)
  • $50,000 BREC’s Pete Goldsby Renovations (page 114)
  • $50,000 Habitat for Humanity Metro Aire Shopping Ctr (page 120)

This list along is roughly $78.4 million for the Red Stick, but The Advocate shows more which may be buried in the budget.  It is true that earmarks were the order of the day on the final day of the legislative session, and East Baton Rouge Parish was no exception.

Where does it stop? 

Do you know anyone who can continue to dip into their Rainy Day Fund and not eventually run out of money?  Is there anyone you currently know that has not made some form of cutbacks to their budget?

I do.  They are our legislators. 

Until next time,

Red Stick Republican

The Magical World of Louisiana Politics Saturday, Jun 20 2009 

 all about the money

Alice in Wonderland taught us about the world of childhood fantasies.  It’s a world of fantasy where some still choose to reside.  It’s a magical land of make believe where anything can happen, much like the world of Louisiana politics.

The heart of the Red Stick is the seat of both city and state government where magical dreams come true.  It’s a tale that began with wonder and delight.  Some call it the legend of Istrouma Bluff . . .

It all began long, long ago on the banks of the mighty Mississippi, when a french explorer, Iberville, spotted a bloody cypress stick and named the location ‘le baton rouge’ or Red Stick

A new architect to the land, Dakin, built a gothic medieval castle to house the seat of government with a front row view of the massive river traffic, but just as in all magical lands, this castle was not large enough for the politically powerful. 

So, Governor Huey P. Long commissioned a taller state capitol to house state government.  It would, one day, become the home of the largest employer in the state of Louisiana. 

This was only the beginning of the people’s woes including larger, more excessive state government.  A chicken in every pot, and funding for all special interests.  It was a Never Never Land, where politicians proclaimed ‘no is not an answer’.

In this magical land, money grew on trees and blank checks fell from the sky.  Politicians skipped down the halls exchanging votes only behind magical closed doors. 

The legislative sessions do often sound like tales from folklore.  Don’t they?  Unfortunately they are not fairy tales, but the reality of gatherings comprised of elected officials and appointees that often lack common sense, ethical concern and good ole-fashioned prudence. 

In the magical world of Louisiana politics, finances are infinite.  There is no awareness of real budgets or lack of funding.  Like Dick Tracy, someone with a magical answer is always ‘on their way’ to the rescue. 

The mentality is that state government is too big to fail, that bailouts and magic financial formulas will cause money to magically appear.  And like all mantras, sometimes they do come true as evidenced by $22.6 million in funding suddenly ‘found’ recently.

In this magical world of Louisiana politics, the finances are so tangled in bureaucracy that the right hand does not know what the left hand is doing.  So much so, that within 12 months we can be so far off base to go from a surplus to a shortfall.  Then, magically, we begin to pick the fruit of unspent dollars and tax dollars to meet the shortfall. 

It truly is magical.  No reality here folks.  Just a wonderful world of fantasy spending that will endlessly lift us to another world of wonder. 

As long as we are living in the world of fantasy, I recommend we all search for a character similar to the one in the movie ‘Dave’.  A hero that snuck a friend into the state capitol to recommend financial cuts.  If it worked in the movies, surely it will work in the magical world of Louisiana politics.  Right?

Until next time,

Red Stick Republican

A Tale of Four Governors Sunday, Jun 14 2009 

 four-horsemen-apocalypse

Four past governors rode down to the state capitol this week to ‘reason’ with Governor Bobby Jindal about higher education cuts.  I found this to be a fascinating move by former Governors Kathleen Blanco, Mike Foster, Buddy Roemer and Dave Treen, especially since they contributed to the overspending mess we find ourselves in today. 

Over the last 14 years, voters have had a front row seat to statewide spendthrift practices by various governors and legislators.  A quick glance at past news reports give a brief overview:

  • On January 9, 2005, The Advocate told us that Governor Blanco’s first operating budget added $500 million to state spending.
  • On January 12, 2003, John Hill of The Town Talk pointed out to us that Governor Mike Foster had 7 years to address state spending, yet failed to do so.
  • On February 15, 1995, Wardlaw of The Times Picayune told us that former Governor Edwin Edwards left incoming Governor Buddy Roemer a $1 billion deficit in 1987.

Putting things into perspective are made possible by glancing at the State of Louisiana’s annual budget increases. 

Take a look at the growth in spending over the past 7 years, and you will see we have virtually doubled state spending:

  • 2001-2002 State Budget:  $15.5 Billion (Governor Foster)
  • 2002-2003 State Budget:  $16.3 Billion (Governor Foster)
  • 2003-2004 State Budget:  $16.7 Billion (Governor Foster)
  • 2004-2005 State Budget:  $17.5 Billion (Governor Blanco)
  • 2005-2006 State Budget:  $18.7 Billion (Governor Blanco)
  • 2006-2007 State Budget:  $26.7 Billion (Governor Blanco)
  • 2007-2008State Budget:  $29.8 Billion (Governor Blanco)

For the 2008-2009 budget, spending was estimated at $29,732,692,645, with an estimated deficit of $2,181,531.  Yes, those numbers are billions!

Blanco and Foster have no footing since they alone doubled state spending in 7 short years.  It comes natural to them to spend more and cut less.  Maybe they have some brilliant idea of how we can pull the money out of our !#$%&? 

When does the spendthrift madness end?  No, I do not want to see higher education cut.  (In case you were wondering.)  Yet, cutting the budget is in order.

While we focus on not cutting higher education, earmarks are slipped in the back door.  It’s an endless mindset of overspending that no one wants to properly address.

Are any of these naysayer-ex-governors offering alternative measures for increasing spending or cuts elsewhere in the budget? 

They’ve already had their 15 minutes of fame, which consisted of a total of 20 years in state government and excessive spending.  Now they want to return and give advice to current Governor Bobby Jindal?  Is that correct?

I realize each individual will have their own perception of this ‘newsworthy’ event.  No doubt it will run the gambit depending on your personal stand on the state spending and cuts. 

For years we were ‘informed’ that Jindal was the ‘whiz kid’, and the only real answer to getting Louisiana back on track.  How quickly those same individuals have turned on Jindal like vipers.  Politics is so fascinating, isn’t it? 

Even the political bloggers told us Jindal was ‘the only choice for change’.  Now look at what they are saying; how entertaining they have become.  I call them fair weather supporters. 

There is no easy solution.  So, I have questions for the pundits and politicians:

  • Where are you willing cut?  Walk with me down budget cutting lane
    • The homeless? 
    • The poor? 
    • The uninsured? 
    • The elderly? 
    • The children? 
    • Economic development? 
    • Roads and bridges? 
    • Emergency services such as EMS, Police or Fire? 
    • Your community? 
    • Your neighborhood? 
    • Who is willing to volunteer a cut for the greater good? 

Silence?  Surely someone can offer something more than a tale of five governors who simply cry out ‘don’t cut higher ed funding”?  Anyone?

I’m waiting . . .

Until next time,

Red Stick Republican

Louisiana’s ‘Higher Education’ Monday, Jun 8 2009 

cutting-money

While legislators debate the State of Louisiana’s budget, and the media criticizes the Jindal administration’s proposed cuts, the truth remains.  The State of Louisiana, politicians and pundits in particular, truly are in need of ‘higher education’.

There are only two options in a financial crisis:

  • Option #1
    • Increase income
  • Option #2
    • Cut expenditures

In our households and businesses, we either find more income or cut spending.  This is not rocket science folks, but obviously a form of ‘higher education’ our lawmakers and pundits are desperately needing to be taught.

While the ‘Louisiana Budget Parade’ of politicians, media, and special interest groups walk down the corridors of the state capitol, onlookers are wising up.  The truth is always the truth, whether we accept it or not.  They say repetition is the mother of all teachers, so here we go again:

  • Increase taxes or cut spending!
  • Increase taxes or cut spending!
  • Increase taxes or cut spending!
  • Increase taxes or cut spending!
  • Increase taxes or cut spending!

Taxpayers are not in need of more taxes.  That leaves one option:

  • Cut spending!
  • Cut spending!
  • Cut spending!
  • Cut spending!
  • Cut spending!

Our children definitely need some ‘higher education in the form of spending practices.  

There are natural and spiritual laws.  If we spend more than we make, we will go in debt.  That debt will have interest and cost you more than you can imagine.  It will cost you additional money, worry, and the need to find more income.  It’s a vicious cycle. 

Until you cut your spending, and learn to say NO, the cycle is perpetual.  In fact, the debt will be passed on for generations to come. 

We can try to ‘keep up with the Joneses or the New Yorkers’, or we can focus on our own situation, and learn some discipline.  It’s no fun.  In fact, it’s a bit painful.  Nevertheless, in the end, it’s the ‘highest education’ we can learn. 

Do not allow fear that politicians or special interest groups threaten us with daily.  Instead, understand there is only so much money to spend and you must live within your means.  If we can teach this lesson to our children, we are truly investing in the right kind of ‘higher education’ for Louisiana residents.

Until next time,

Red Stick Republican