If misery loves company, we’ve got company.
Kansas, meet Louisiana.
When he was governor of Louisiana, Bobby Jindal, who recently unsuccessfully sought the Republican nomination for president, must have read the same playbook that Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback read.
Jindal and his conservative Republican legislature slashed income taxes, mostly on the wealthy, passed big tax breaks for corporations and ran up deficits with a whole host of measures.
Jindal argued that the tax cuts would stimulate business enough to plug the deficits.
The Louisiana budget shortfall is close to a billion dollars for the fiscal year that ends June 30 and $2 billion for the next fiscal cycle, which begins July 1.
The recently elected Gov. John Bel Edwards, who is a Democrat, inherited a gigantic crisis. It was so bad that the governor went on prime-time television to warn folks that, without action, everything could be slashed, including the Louisiana State University football program.
That got their attention.
Since the Louisiana Constitution prohibits tax increases during the regular session of the legislature, a special session was just called by the governor.
Did the legislators Google “Kansas budget crisis?”
They must have.
After a lot of teeth-gnashing, legislators decided — among other things — to substantially raise the sales tax, just as Kansas did.
However, their sales tax expires in 27 months. That will be a billion-dollar problem in 2018. Kansas did not shoot itself in the same foot again. Its tax has no end date.
Those in Kansas who voted for Democrat Paul Davis when he ran for governor in the last election should take some comfort from the Louisiana experience. Their Democratic governor made little difference, in heading off their fiasco.
With one exception — he did use his bully pulpit to arouse the awareness of Louisiana’s citizens.
Those who live in Missouri have learned a similar lesson. Gov. Jay Nixon, a Democrat, is almost toothless when faced with an overwhelmingly Republican and conservative legislature.
Louisiana is not done. Lawmakers muddled through this year, but their budget crisis continues into next year…and beyond.
Kansas is not done, either.
Louisiana may want to take some more lessons from Kansas on how to deal with a perpetual shortfall in revenue, without nullifying any lavish tax breaks.
You keep transferring funds, many on a one-time-only basis, to buy time.
You take and take from the highway fund.
You take large amounts from children’s initiatives.
You sell assets.
You even talk about selling future tobacco settlement funds for a one-time pop.
And, of course, you start cutting into bone, such as a whack at university budgets.
Like Kansas, Louisiana is bound to learn that there just is no end in sight. Every time projections seem to show light at the end of the tunnel, revenues come in way short of projections.
At least, neither Kansas nor Louisiana is like Alaska, where plummeting oil prices have reduced that state’s income to near zero.
That should make us all feel better. Now we have more company to be miserable with.
Steve Rose: longtime Johnson County columnist: firstname.lastname@example.org