Budget / Education / Health Care / Transparency

Commentary: Treasurer Kennedy Proposes Measures to Alleviate Louisiana’s Budget Crisis

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In the midst of Louisiana’s education budget crisis, it is understandable that frustrated citizens have taken to looking for scapegoats. Accordingly, it’s not surprising to see many bumper stickers decrying Governor Jindal’s perceived role as the chief culprit for the cuts which threaten the quality of our higher education system. While placing the burden of blame on our governor may be convenient, it is inaccurate. Our lack of funding is not the result of draconian decisions from the governor’s mansion, but from a culture of wasteful spending and a bloated governing apparatus.

State Treasurer John Kennedy recently laid out 16 measures that would save nearly $3 billion in state funds, which can then be allocated to health care and education. Treasurer Kennedy’s listed measures are grounded in common-sense and practicality. His first suggestion is axiomatic: “Do not raise taxes or fees. We do not need to. It won’t work anyway. Ask California.”

Likewise, he illuminates one of the biggest problems with our state government, the disproportionately large size of per capita state employees, which siphons funding away from schools and hospitals into unnecessary administrative positions. By eliminating 5,000 of these positions each year for three years, Kennedy estimates annual savings of $500 million. The Treasurer also stresses restructuring the state’s consulting contracts by eliminating 10% of the current 16,000 contracts and by reducing costs by 5%. Over $1 billion a year will be saved by implementing these two suggestions.

Also central to Kennedy’s plan is overhauling our currently unsustainable Medicaid plan. The amount of unnecessary and superfluous government expenditures on the Ponzi scheme that is Medicaid is astounding. Kennedy points out that implementing a provision of the state law will allow the state to purchase private insurance for low-income citizens, which is cheaper than Medicaid and will result in $100 million in annual savings.

Furthermore, the lack of transparency in the Medicaid program often means that tax-payers fund emergency room trips for non-emergencies and Medicaid patients receive egregious state-subsidized hospital stays. Simple measures to increase oversight into the Medicaid system will greatly reduce wasteful government spending that could be better used on hospitals or struggling schools.

One hopes that suggestions such as these will receive due attention. Whether every recommendation on the list is ideal is beside the point. Serious cuts in spending need to be made and Kennedy should be commended for proposing reforms that address the deficit without further burdening the taxpayers of Louisiana.

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