Treasurer Kennedy: all hat — no horse

by Walter Pierce

Well, a little horse, but his glib pronouncements about solving the state’s budget crisis don’t stand up to scrutiny.

State Treasurer John Kennedy is fond of saying Louisiana “doesn’t have a revenue problem — we have a spending problem.” He used the term again in his first campaign commercial for U.S. Senate the Republican response to Gov. John Bel Edwards’ address to the state on Feb. 11. But Kennedy’s glib pronouncements about offering the new governor 400 ways to cut spending and fix the budget without raising revenue don’t stand up to even casual scrutiny — especially his recent claim on a New Orleans radio show that the “legislative auditor last year did 36 audits” and the “total amount of waste and inefficiencies that the legislative auditor in these 36 reports identified just last year, in 2015, is 1.745 billion dollars.”

Nearly $2 billion would just about cover the budget shortfall for this fiscal year and next. So why isn't the governor and the Legislature harness Kennedy's wisdom?

Enter blogger Lamar White Jr., who this week in a post titled “LA Treasurer John Kennedy Accidentally Destroys His Own Argument” on his blog, CenLamar, took a closer look at Kennedy’s claim:

But what caught my eye, in particular, was that $1.1 billion of the nearly $1.8 billion identified in the report concerned the state’s temporary exemption on taxing horizontal drilling from 2010-2014. Put another way, more than 60% of the “wasteful spending” that Treasurer Kennedy hails as the cause of our budget crisis wasn’t actually spending; it was uncollected revenue. So, when he suggests Louisiana has a spending problem and not a revenue problem, he’s apparently counting the $1.1 billion in uncollected revenue from horizontal drilling, or fracking, as “wasteful spending.”


The Advocate piled on today with an editorial, “Our Views, Mythbusters edition: You can’t catch a bullet in your teeth, and these budget ‘easy fixes’ are bogus,” that, although it doesn’t name Kennedy, is clearly directed at the plain-talking pander bear from St. Tammany Parish and his “magical thinking.”

“The Mythbusters crew is needed at Louisiana’s State Capitol, where there’s a bumper crop of budget fictions these days,” the point-by-point analysis begins. “Faced with a deluge of red ink in the state budget, some have resorted to magical thinking.” The paper’s editorial team goes on to undercut Kennedy’s claims that easy fixes like eliminating waste, constitutional dedications and state contracts will alone serve as a prescription for Louisiana’s budget malaise. Read it here.