By Jan Moller
The three sessions that comprised the 2016 Louisiana Legislature should be remembered as much for what was accomplished as what wasn’t. While elected officials raised enough revenue to avoid the most serious cuts, they left major holes in the budget that will impact students from kindergarten through college and sets back the state’s efforts to reform its criminal justice system.
Perhaps more importantly, legislators failed to make the long-term structural reforms needed to put Louisiana’s budget back on solid footing. That means the work of building a more fair and sustainable revenue and budget structure must continue next year, as many of the revenue measures that were passed in 2015 and 2016 come with expiration dates. The Legislature didn’t fix Louisiana’s fiscal problems so much as it bought some time for real reforms to be made.
Gov. John Bel Edwards and the Legislature deserves credit for ending the pernicious practice of balancing the budget using “one-time” dollars that have no replacement source in future years. The 2015-16 budget was built with $826 million in one-time dollars, which contributed greatly to the initial $2 billion shortfall in the fiscal year that starts July 1. Next year’s budget is free of such “funny money,” and represents a more honest balance between revenues and expenses.
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