Monday, March 13, 2006
POLITICS / JOHN MAGINNIS
Gov. Kathleen Blanco is kicking up some stagnant political dust by using her campaign funds to buy radio commercials to promote her proposed pay raise for teachers and college faculty. She called it "investing in our people and our future and not in big government." Many of the ads ran during conservative radio talk shows, the source of her strongest criticism.
The reaction in conservative circles was, if not what she intended, what she could have expected. I heard it on the radio and at the corner store: Blanco is trying to buy her re-election by paying off her base. She is gambling with one-time budget money that might not be there next year. And what is not "big government" about a $20.7 billion budget that has grown $2 billion since it was adopted last year?
Critics felt their cynicism was confirmed when, in the same week, Blanco was endorsed for re-election by the new chairman of the Louisiana Democratic Party.
The governor's staff will grow by 64 positions to dispense the billions in federal aid pouring in and to set up the housing grant and buyout program, a massive new undertaking for state government that will go on for years.
Besides federal money, this bigger government is made possible by a bounce-back in state revenue growth. Sales, gambling and severance taxes lead the way and income taxes are growing back. The state's so-called Rainy Day Fund, filled by oil and gas taxes, has reached its cap of $680 million, making excess income available for spending.
If that's not big government to the governor, it's not getting any smaller.