Stop what you're doing and read this. Seriously. This moment.
We know. It's a whole lot of text about a state constitutional amendment on the "expenditure limit," which is just about the most boring-sounding thing in the world. But it couldn't be more important that you understand this dangerous proposal by Louisiana House GOP leadership.
Under the guise of “budget reform,” House Republican leaders have made three demands of Gov. John Bel Edwards as a condition of agreeing to replace some of the revenue from temporary taxes that expire on July 1. Most of the attention thus far has focused on the first two - a new website that would track government spending by state and local governments, and a proposed work requirement and out-of-pocket costs for some Medicaid recipients.
But it’s the third demand from House Speaker Taylor Barras that poses the greatest danger to Louisiana’s ability to pay for critical needs in health care, education, public safety and transportation in future years.
Barras is proposing to change the state cap on spending to make it far more restrictive than the current cap. If these changes are added to the state constitution, it could force lawmakers to make hundreds of millions of dollars in unnecessary cuts to services unless they can muster a two-thirds vote to override the cap.
Had the revised cap been in effect in for the 2016-17 budget cycle, the Legislature would have been forced to cut $567 million from that year’s budget unless it could muster a two-thirds vote. For perspective, that’s more than the combined total general fund dollars spent that year on TOPS ($149 million), mental health ($109 million), juvenile justice services ($120 million) and sheriff’s housing of adult offenders ($123 million).
If the cap had been enacted two years earlier, the cuts would have been slightly less severe but still devastating at $368 million. That could have forced the Legislature to make deep cuts to health care services, higher education, public safety and other vital needs - even if there was money available to pay for them.
Similar budget gimmicks have been tried - and rejected - by many other states, for a simple reason: They don’t work. They do nothing to clean up the tax code or make government run more efficiently. Instead, it turns legislative decision-making over to a flawed and rigid formula, and puts undue power in the hands of a minority of lawmakers.
Essentially, the spending cap proposal would enshrine in our state constitution the cycle of shortfalls, midyear cuts, and special sessions, creating a new normal for Louisiana that puts all of the programs we care about at risk.
So, you can. . .
Or you can take action now!
The House Appropriations Committee already passed the spending cap bills onto the House Floor. We need you to contact your Representative and ask them to vote NO on the spending cap bills. Call and email the members today. If you don't know who your House Rep is, you can enter your voting address to find their contact information here. It could not be more important that you contact them TODAY. These bills are scheduled for a vote THIS SUNDAY, February 25, 2018.
When calling and emailing their offices, all you have to say is:
"Hi, my name is ___________ and I am calling to express my opposition to House Bills 12 and 15 by Speaker Taylor Barras."
In your email, you might want to add reasons for your opposition to the bills. Below are some sample reasons you might choose to include.
Just a few reasons to oppose the spending cap:
- The spending cap would permanently undermine our ability to make the kinds of investments in education, transportation and other things that help communities thrive and the economy grow.
- The spending cap does nothing to change what it costs to provide services, like educating our kids and keeping our communities safe, nor does it do anything to set priorities for spending.
- The spending cap could lead to a credit rating downgrade and higher borrowing costs for important projects in our state, such as building new roads or bridges, because it hurts the state’s ability to pay its debts.
- Because the bill sets a high hurdle for overriding the spending cap, it makes it very difficult for state leaders to make quick decisions in times of crisis – like natural disasters or recessions.