Economic Shocks Should Signal Spending Restraint from Lawmakers
With tens of thousands of Louisianans now out of a job due to effects of the spread of COVID-19, household budgets are being reviewed and adjusted to ensure families stay afloat during this uncertain period. But while individuals and families across Louisiana are facing the largest and most immediate financial impacts of this crisis, the state government’s budget will undoubtedly feel the pain as well. This presents a major challenge for Louisiana lawmakers when they reconvene.
Louisiana’s budget appeared to be in trouble long before the statewide shelter in place order came down. Increased oil production from Saudi Arabia and Russia combined with less travel worldwide has caused oil prices to plunge to just over $20 a barrel. This factor alone equates to some $400 million in projected state revenue losses for Louisiana.
Sales and income tax collections are going to decline in the coming weeks and months, while collections will also be delayed due to extensions granted by the government to help those in need. Because of this, the legislature is going to find itself with far less money than it projected just a few months ago.
Louisianans should understand that no lawmaker could’ve predicted these two major shocks to the Louisiana economy, however, they should still expect state leaders to deal with the fallout thoughtfully and responsibly.
There are many excellent proposals for lawmakers to limit state government spending, and these are worth heavier consideration now than ever before. Proposals by Representative Beau Beaullieu would limit the state’s general fund spending to ensure it’s in line with inflation, economic growth, population, and personal income. Extra revenue could be sent to the rainy-day fund, which would be useful at a time like this. Colorado implemented a strong taxing and spending limits initiative in 1992, known as the Taxpayer Bill of Rights , and since then, spending has grown much slower than other states.
The legislature should also look to adopt a proposal by Representative Rick Edmonds, which would prevent the legislature from appropriating more than 98 percent of the official revenue forecast. If the past few weeks have proven anything, Louisiana’s economic situation can change on a dime. This makes it critical to ensure the state has sufficient wiggle room.
While it’s good policy to limit how much politicians spend, we should give them more leeway when it comes to where dollars can be allocated. Louisiana’s current constitutional structure locks away billions for dedicated spending. Lawmakers need flexibility
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