The latest revelation in Bobby Jindal’s fiscal irresponsibility deals with a potential $14 Million hole in the current state Operating Budget in connection with the privatization of the LSU hospitals. According to the Lege Fiscal Office (“LFO”) It appears that the Fed funds that were counted on aren’t available.
While it’s easy to blame Team Jindal for the problem, the leges deserve an equal share of the blame for going along with it without thoroughly vetting the budget.
The amount of speculative money included in the current and next year’s budgets is unprecedented. To balance the budgets the leges have relied not only on estimated revenues, but estimated savings and speculative matching funds.
As we are now learning, unlike revenues projections, projections for savings and matching funds are impossible to accurately forecast until after-the-fact. Little wonder that there have been unprecedented mid-year budgets cuts almost every year that Jindal has been governor. And, this year is not yet over.
Such sources of funds are no better than us buying a lottery ticket in order pay for our vacation.
Lack of due diligence
The current situation highlights a major flaw in the lege process.
Based on anecdotal evidence, the LFO has not been asked by the leges to dig into the proposed budgets before they are approved.
Due diligence requires vetting the budget in advance, not after-the-fact.
When the LFO was created I was working for the House Appropriations Committee. During the House and Senate committee hearings the LFO budget analysts went line-by-line and toe-to-toe with the governor’s budget analysts in reviewing the budget.
The analysts butted heads over such details as how much money to allocate for postage, travel, equipment purchases, etc. It was a nitty-gritty, in-depth, analysis of each agency budget.
When the General Appropriations Bill (a.k.a. known as HB 1) reached the House Floor as many as seven full lege days were spent pouring over the details before gaining approval.
Was it a perfect process? Absolutely not! It was, however, a best effort by the leges to exercise their constitutionally-mandated oversight of the state budget. Additionally, the leges were far better informed than today.
It’s time for the leges to stop cold-turkey including in the state budget highly-speculative revenue sources such as projected savings. At worst, this will create a surplus that must be used to pay down debt, capital construction, etc.
At a minimum, the LFO should be tasked by the leges with providing a list of all, for the lack of better words, “non-traditional” revenue sources. It’s then up to the leges to decide whether they are willing to do what the people of the state elected them to do.
This way, we, at least the voters will be able to hold our leges fully-accountable if the funds fail to materialize.
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