Promptly after inauguration, Gov. John Bel Edwards opened his front door to find a brown paper bag of s--- on fire.
I’m not talking about the $750 million current fiscal year shortfall the Bobster blessed us with, soon to be $1.9 billion come spring. No, this smelly bag of human excrement I’m referring to is filled with millions of dollars in unpublicized pay increases to state employees authorized by Jindal’s administration in his last weeks in office.
Just among the four state agencies LaPolitics reporter Jeremy Alford recovered documents from, Jindal’s administration allowed $19.1 million in increases to employee salaries.
Edwards’ administration is still digging up the remains of the pay increases as there were at least 78 state agencies and departments qualified to raise salaries on the basis of performance adjustments. The $19.1 million added to what our bankrupt state already can’t pay is just a culmination of four agencies. Who knows what the other 74 will cost?
To make things better for Edwards, on his last day of office Jindal made 23 board and commission appointments for his loyal lackeys, one of which included the Louisiana Board of Regents which is in charge of higher education.
Bobby J’s sellout political followers are still everywhere in the state. They fill up the LSU Board of Supervisors in higher education school systems, and Edwards can’t remove them until each loyalist is termed out.
The dawn of the new governor’s administration doesn’t have much sun shining down on it as each week Edwards has to sit down to hear “Well, it’s worse than we thought.”
The budget hole keeps on growing, and $1.9 billion won’t be the highest number we’ll see. As the state continues to discover the pay raises Jindal dished out like candy, gas prices continue to sink and one-time revenue options from previous years expire, the budget gap might dip into the $2 billion.
Edwards’ options are limited and dismal. He could shut down every university and college in the state, disregarding contractual agreements to students and tenured professors, and the state would still be in the red.
So cutting higher education again is not only something he is not overly willing to do, but it is also an option that won’t put a dent in closing our budget deficit.
Edwards can and probably will cut some government positions, but those surely won’t come near to solving the crisis. He could cut the tax incentive program, but with business lobbying firms protecting industry interests, cutting credits and exemptions won’t produce enough revenue to save our butts.
Edwards is going to have to raise taxes, and he already proposed raising the state sales tax by one cent, changing the state’s tax brackets and reducing or eliminating the federal tax deductable, which lowers the burden of state taxes when federal taxes increase.
In four years, the Republicans will put up a candidate against Edwards and (God help us) it could even be Jindal, as he mentioned possibly returning to Louisiana politics in the future. He’ll come in and say “in the eight years I was in office, I never raised your taxes once, but as soon as a Democrat gets in you’re having to pay more.”
When and if that day comes, remember the mess his no tax increase nonsense put us in. A nearly $2 billion ticket on the train ride called bankruptcy.
Justin DiCharia is a 21-year-old mass communication senior from Slidell, Louisiana. You can reach him on Twitter @JDiCharia.