Louisiana faces yet another budget crisis.

As the state readies for the expiration of more than $1 billion per year in taxes, some tough decisions will have to be made.

So far, many Republican lawmakers have said they are reluctant to renew the expiring taxes – which were implemented on a temporary basis to give the governor and Legislature time to work out a combination of tax hikes and budget cuts that would get us on sound financial ground.

That still has yet to happen.

And the expiration of those taxes is looming. They will end June 30, so the budget year that starts July 1 will have to make do without that money.

Gov. John Bel Edwards, speaking last week, said that if lawmakers refuse to renew or replace the taxes that are expiring, they should be prepared to present $1 billion in cuts they are willing to make to the current budget.

That is a fair point. Anyone who argues that Louisiana’s revenue is sufficient to cover all necessary public services should be able to list the specific cuts that will allow the state to balance its books.

The harsh reality is that it will likely take a combination of taxes and budget cuts. And for that to happen, the governor and the Legislature will have to communicate, cooperate and, most importantly, compromise.

We cannot continue to lurch from one crisis to the next with no permanent solution in sight. It isn’t fair to the universities and hospitals – or to the students and patients who use them – to pile more cuts on top of the cuts they have already absorbed over the past decade.

But those are likely the places that will bear the brunt of any cuts. Because so many areas of the state budget are protected from decreases, health care and higher education are two places that remain vulnerable.

Clearly, that is a self-defeating way of governing. Lawmakers and the governor should have the power to make cuts throughout the budget so that lean times can be accommodated through small decreases in many areas. Instead, they are forced to make drastic decreases in the few areas where they can do so.

Our state constitution has outlived its ability to guide the state through difficult times. Louisiana must change it or rewrite it so we can get from year to year without devastating changes that harm the public.

Barring a constitutional convention, though, we desperately need a budget process that will bridge the gap between dwindling revenue and stable or increasing expenses.

That will take both sides working together for the good of the people – preferably without yet another temporary gimmick that simply puts off the difficult choices.

 

Editorials represent the opinion of the newspaper, not of any individual.