Archive for January, 2013

Louisiana Budget Hawks Release their Plan

From The Hayride — http://thehayride.com/2013/01/fiscal-hawks-release-budget-reform-package/

The Budget Reform Campaign, founded by a coalition of fiscally conservative state legislators, and Chaired by State Representative Brett Geymann has published a draft reform package of Constitutional Amendments and bills to be introduced in the legislative session that begins April 8th.

“We are proud to present our initial draft of budget reforms to address key elements of the budget process” said Representative Brett Geymann.  “We are entering the second phase of our effort to establish a broad-based, transparent dialogue on budget issues, while we continue to share our work with stakeholders, and improve our package with input from civic, business and political leaders, and the general public ” Geymann said.  “I want to thank my colleagues who have worked so hard and continue to take time away from their families and businesses to support this effort for real reform” Geymann continued.  “We are committed to fixing the broken budget process that results in devastating mid-year and year-end budget cuts.  We are committed to protecting core priorities like healthcare and higher education that are so important to our people and our State” Geymann concluded.

The package of Constitutional Amendments and reform bills consists of proposals to address reform issues at the core of the Campaign’s mission:

  • Constitutionality. A proposed Constitutional Amendment regarding budget controls restores Constitutional budgeting by banning appropriations of funds not included in the official revenue forecast; that exceed the official forecast; that are contingent, or that use non-recurring funds on recurring expenses.  Only revenue that has been recognized by the REC as available may be appropriated.  This proposed instrument addresses concerns about the Constitutionality of our current budget process while clarifying existing language.
  • Transparency. Proposes constitutional amendments and statutes regarding budget procedures that clarify the timing and deadlines of the budget process, to enable a more broad-based and transparent review of the budget.
    • One proposal requires House notification of Senate Amendments within 24 hours of passage, so that the House has access to Senate changes in a timely fashion.
    • The House would be provided the text of Amendments 3 days prior to any House vote to allow time to thoroughly review Senate changes prior to a vote on concurrence.
    • Another proposal requires final passage of the general appropriations bill about two weeks earlier in the session, to ensure a more broad-based and transparent budget process.

These proposed instruments address concerns about inadequate time for proper deliberation and the need for more transparent review in the waning days of legislative sessions.

  • Budget Priorities. A proposed Constitutional Amendment helps protect higher education and healthcare.  This proposal requires that if the appropriations bill contains funding for higher education and healthcare at a level lower than the previous year, the bill would be split into non-discretionary and discretionary appropriation bills that would be voted on separately.  This proposed instrument would help ensure that core priorities are funded first, and create a transparent mechanism for reviewing statutorily dedicated expenditures on an ongoing basis.   This instrument requires that spending due to constitutional or other mandates be considered in a separate appropriations bill from spending that is not required to be funded if higher education and healthcare are reduced.

State Representative Lance Harris (R – Alexandria), a Charter Member of the Coalition believes that these core reforms are a necessary precursor to any significant change in the way Louisiana takes in revenue.  “It is critical that we fix the way we are putting together our budget before we make major changes in how we take in revenue” said Representative Harris.  “We keep pouring water into our bucket year after year, but it’s clear now that there is a hole in our bucket” Representative Harris said.  “Before we make changes to where we get the water, it would make a whole lot of sense to fix the bucket first” Representative Harris continued.  “We are looking forward to working closely with legislative leadership and the Administration to make sure this legislative session addresses the root causes of our budget crisis” Representative Harris concluded.

The full texts of these proposals are published below and available for download, here at WWW.LABUDGETREFORM.COM.

The Campaign will tour the state to present the package to budget stakeholders, to answer questions, receive input from stakeholders and revise the package accordingly.  The Campaign also expects that the package will include additional proposals resulting from consulting with legislators, leadership, the Administration, and the public input process.  The Campaign will hold several online events to allow statewide input.  All business and civic leaders, budget stakeholders and the general public are encouraged to participate in this process – online and in person.

Noonan: Lessons Conservatives Need to Learn

Obama is a formidable foe. He means to change the country and crush the GOP.

  • By PEGGY NOONAN

Two lessons on how conservatives and Republicans might approach the future, and a look at the meaning of  Barack Obama.

Lesson one: Golf star Phil Mickelson this week complained about taxes—”I happen to be in that zone that has been targeted both federally and by the state”—and suggested he may leave California. Before anyone could jump down his throat, he abjectly apologized: He didn’t mean to hurt anyone, he shouldn’t have said it, taxes are a “personal” issue.

Actually they’re pretty public. The American Revolution started as a tax revolt. It is not remarkable that a man might protest a 50% to 60% tax rate that means he has to work from January through July or August for the government, and only gets to keep for himself and his family what he earns from then through December.

Most fans would rather see Mr. Mickelson hit a ball with a stick than hear his economic analysis, and talking about tax burdens when you’re making up to $50 million a year sounds like . . . well, a pretty high-class problem.

But his complaint came as kind of a relief. It was politically incorrect. It was based on actual numbers and facts and not grounded in abstractions, as most of our public pronouncements are. And it was unusual. Most people in his position are clever enough not to sound aggrieved.

Conservatives and Republicans feel a bit under siege these days because their views are not officially in style. But the Cringe is not the way to deal with it. If you take a stand, take a stand and take the blows. Many people would think that paying more than half your salary in city, state, county and federal taxes is unjust. Mr. Mickelson is not alone.

***

Lesson two came from Republicans on Capitol Hill. Conservatives on the ground are angry with them after the Benghazi hearings. Members of the Senate and the House have huffed and puffed for months: “It’s worse than Watergate, Americans died.” Just wait till they question the secretary of state, they’ll get to the bottom of it.

Wednesday they questioned Hillary Clinton. It was a dud.

The senators weren’t organized or focused, they didn’t coordinate questions, follow up, have any coherent or discernible strategy. The only senator who really tried to bore in was Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, who asked a pointed question that was never answered: If you wanted to find out what happened when the consulate was attacked, why didn’t you pick up the phone the next day and call those who’d been there?  John McCain made a spirited, scattered speech—really, it was just like him—that couldn’t find the energy to end in serious questions.

Some conservatives are saying Mrs. Clinton looked unhinged, angry. In their dreams. She came across as human and indignant, and emerged untouched. What air there was in the Benghazi balloon leaked out. Someday we’ll find out what happened when somebody good writes a book.

All this looked like another example of the mindless personal entrepreneurialism of the Republicans on the Hill: They’re all in business for themselves. They make their speech, ask their question, and it’s not connected to anyone else’s speech or question. They aren’t part of something that moves and makes progress.

Minority parties can’t act like this, in such a slobby, un-unified way.

Hill Republicans continue not to understand that they are the face of the party when the cameras are trained on Washington. They don’t understand how they look, which is like ants on a sugar cube.

***

Finally, it became obvious this week that the Republican Party top to bottom has to start taking Barack Obama seriously. All the famous criticisms of him are true: He has no talent for or interest in sustained, good-faith negotiations, he has no real sense of alarm about the great issue of the day, America’s debt. He’s a chill presence in a warm-blooded profession.

But he means business. He means to change America in fundamental ways and along the lines of justice as he sees it. The proper response to such a man is not—was not—that he’s a Muslim, he’s a Kenyan, he’s working out his feelings about colonialism. Those charges were meant to marginalize him, but they didn’t hurt him. They damaged Republicans, who came to see him as easy to defeat.

He doesn’t care if you like him—he’d just as soon you did, but it’s not necessary for him. He is certain he is right in what he’s doing, which is changing the economic balance between rich and poor. The rich are going to be made less rich, and those who are needy or request help are going to get more in government services, which the rich will pay for. He’d just as soon the middle class not get lost in the shuffle, but if they wind up marginally less middle class he won’t be up nights. The point is redistribution.

The great long-term question is the effect the change in mood he seeks to institute will have on what used to be called the national character. Eight years is almost half a generation. Don’t you change people when you tell them they have an absolute right to government support regardless of their efforts? Don’t you encourage dependence, and a bitter sense of entitlement? What about the wearing down of taxpayers? Some, especially those who are younger, do not fully understand that what is supporting them is actually coming from other people. To them it seems to come from “the government,” the big marble machine far away that prints money.

There is no sign, absolutely none, that any of this is on Mr. Obama’s mind. His emphasis is always on what one abstract group owes another in the service of a larger concept. “You didn’t build that” are the defining words of his presidency.

He is not going to negotiate, compromise, cajole. Absent those efforts his only path to primacy in Congress is to kill the Republican Party, to pulverize it, as John Dickerson noted this week in Slate, to “attempt to annihilate the Republican Party,” as Speaker John Boehner said in a remarkably candid speech to the Ripon Society.

Mr. Obama is not, as has been said, the left’s Ronald Reagan. Reagan won over, Mr. Obama just wins. What Mr. Obama really is, is Franklin D. Roosevelt without the landslides. He has the same seriousness of intent but nothing like the base of support.

In 1932, FDR won the presidency with 58% of the vote to Herbert Hoover’s 40%. In 1936 it was even better: Roosevelt won 61% of the vote to Alf Landon’s 36.5%.

In 2008, Mr. Obama beat John McCain solidly, 53% to 46%. But last year, against a woebegone GOP candidate, he won just 51% of the vote, to Mitt Romney’s 47%. (Yes: ironic.)

Mr. Obama received 66 million votes in 2012—but four years earlier he received 69.5 million.

His support went down, not up.

He is moving forward as if he has FDR’s mandate and attempting to crush his enemy every bit as ruthlessly as FDR, who was one ruthless patrician.

It will take guts and unity to fight him. Can the GOP, just in Washington, for now, develop those things?

A version of this article appeared January 26, 2013, on page A15 in the U.S. edition of The Wall Street Journal, with the headline: Lessons Conservatives Need to Learn.