Kennedy talks to Rotary Club
By Shantelle Breaux
CROWLEY – Louisiana State Treasurer John Kennedy spoke to a full house at Tuesday’s Crowley Rotary Club meeting about a topic he knows a lot about – money.
The state’s money, or taxpayer’s money, to be precise.
Kennedy started off by saying there are some people in Baton Rouge who think that what the state needs is more taxes.
“You won’t hear that from me,” said Kennedy.
According to Kennedy, the recently ended legislative session balanced the state budget by cutting into healthcare and education funding. And although the budget was reduced from $30 billion, or $29.6 billion to be precise, to $29 billion, said Kennedy, “You are still talking about a lot of money.”
In 1996 when Mike Foster was elected governor, the state budget amounted to $11.9 billion. By 2005, that amount had jumped to $18.7 billion. Kennedy blamed this jump in the budget on one thing – Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.
According to Kennedy, the federal disaster money designed to help the state after these disasters artificially stimulated the economy. The problem now is, stated Kennedy, that revenues are coming back down to earth.
One thing the state cannot afford to do now, said Kennedy, is raise taxes. Not only does the state not need to do it, but it is also not a good idea when the state is flirting with a recession.
The state also has to get control of state labor costs. Louisiana ranks ninth in the nation in state labor spending, and first in the south.
Kennedy has a simple solution for this.
“All we have to do is not fill vacancies as they become available,” stated Kennedy, adding that the determination on what jobs should not be filled should be made by an outside, independent source.
Currently, the state has $1.7 billion in outstanding receivables. According to Kennedy, is time that the state started collecting on those, some of which are six months past due.
Lastly, Kennedy stated that Louisiana needs to prioritize her spending.
Kennedy also spoke about the good things happening in the state, emphasizing that no banks in Louisiana have failed, the economy is holding it’s own, and our relatively low unemployment rate.
But, emphasized Kennedy, to keep the state on track, “We have got to live within our means.”