Proposed budget is shortsighted, lacks balance

On May 1, members of the Louisiana House Appropriations Committee approved a budget that drastically decreases funding to numerous agencies, including the Department of Child and Family Services, the Health Department, the Corrections Department and others. The budget reduces government expenditure by $630 million more than Governor John Bel Edward’s budget proposal. Nevertheless, citing the state’s budgetary crisis as the impetus for such drastic measures, the Republican-led House claims that these cuts are necessary to stymie the enormous debt which has plagued Louisiana’s fiscal health.

The Appropriations Committee, however, refrained from dictating how these agencies should reduce spending. Though agencies have been  directed to remove any job vacancies before making additional cuts, the Appropriations Committee has provided no further guidance on where these cuts should be made. This mentality of curbing bureaucratic “excesses” with little regard for their overall impact vividly illustrates the ideological quagmire in which state politicians find themselves. Furthermore, these cuts portray a worryingly short-sighted approach to combating the state’s spiraling deficits.

First, the proposed budget unjustly deprives financial support from various agencies which serve vulnerable, unrepresented populations. For instance, the House budget cuts $19.5 million from the Department of Child and Family Services, $18 million from the Department of Education, $11 million from the Corrections Department and a staggering $235 million from the Health Department.

The cuts to the Health Department are particularly worrisome. Federal funding supports many health services and programs, and the suggested cuts would therefore have an exponential effect. These cuts aren’t an assault on wasteful expenditure. Instead, they are indicative of a cynical budgetary approach that mistakes draconian policy for fiscal frugality.

Furthermore, these cuts are harmful to the state. Ranked in 2017 by U.S. News & World Report as 50th in the nation in corrections, 46th in education and 45th in health care, Louisiana cannot afford to ignore these crucial sectors.

It is an inescapable fact, however, that Louisiana does have an ever-ballooning deficit, one which must be addressed. Despite this, legislators shirk from revenue increases. With the repeal of the Stelly Plan in 2008, which raised income taxes mainly on upper-income individuals, the state’s potential revenue in the past decade was severely decreased.

As it currently stands, the proposed budget shifts the fiscal burden onto the least-privileged, who disproportionally rely on government services for basic needs such as education, health and child care. When Louisiana devotes less money to essential services that either protect or support its citizens, it suggests a callous disregard for the welfare of every Louisianan. Undoubtedly, with our state’s calamitous fiscal situation, legislators will have to make uncomfortable, even painful, sacrifices. Such decisions, however, must be balanced, aiming to advance the public welfare rather than a rigid, tax-wary ideology.

This is an opinion article and does not reflect the views of The Tulane Hullabaloo. Nketiah is a rising sophomore at Newcomb-Tulane College. He can be reached at [email protected]

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