Greg Albrecht’s revelation of a state budget overage had barely been spoken before politicos with partisan and parochial agendas were pontificating with ideas as to how to spend the newfound booty.
Albrecht, the chief economist for the Legislative Fiscal Office, said the state closed this past fiscal year with a surplus of $130 million, thanks in large part to larger-than-expected business tax collections. Albrecht said those collections budgeted revenue, which bodes well for the state’s economy and hopefully paints a rosy picture of a brighter future.
With the new loot at their disposal, some legislators immediately began floating spending ideas. House Appropriations Committee Chairman Jim Fannin said the surplus should replenish the so-called “rainy day fund,” which the state was recently forced to utilize.
Paul Rainwater, Gov. Bobby Jindal’s chief adviser, suggested the state designate the money to the state’s healthcare system. The money could be used to help offset what amounts to a $94 million deficit in the state’s Medicaid program, avoid deeper cuts to the listing LSU hospital system and assist in defraying the costs for other health care services.
Rainwater should be applauded for his suggestion, and the legislators would be wise to jump on board. Jindal’s budget axe has butchered the state’s health care system, and the LSU Health System has appeared to be wearing the bull’s eye.
However, by shuffling some of the money back to LSU, the potential doomsday scenarios recently painted by system officials, including the closing of LSU Bogalusa Medical Center or at least reducing the flourishing facility to a meager 10 beds, could be avoided.
But this is just not about saving the LSU system and the thousands of jobs that represents. Rather, mainstreaming the money back to health care would help in maintaining the dignity of the elderly, provide quality medical services for those in need and, at its extreme, save lives.
Fannin’s “rainy day” suggestion was dripping wet with political posturing from the start. Perhaps he is one of the few legislators in the state who has little concern for the health of his constituents.
Fortunately, others do, and they should do the right thing and take advantage of this fiscal bonanza and put the dollars where they belong: protecting the health of Louisiana citizens.
Anything less is not acceptable.