Three members of the state’s Revenue Estimating Conference agree that Louisiana will have about $150 million more in its coffers over the coming year than was previously projected.

But one member, House Speaker Taylor Barras, has consistently opposed upping the budget figure to allow more state spending. The rules say the conference must unanimously agree to change the projections, so Barras can have his way even with his lone no vote.

Increasingly in recent years, observers might expect partisan politics to be at the bottom of such a stubborn impasse. But at least two members of the conference, Senate President John Alario and Commissioner of Administration Jay Dardenne, are in fact Republicans, just like Barras.

Instead, this seems to be a quest to deny Gov. John Bel Edwards the money he would need to propose a modest and much-needed pay raise for the state’s teachers.

In this case, it is difficult to see the reasoning behind such strident opposition to what, by most accounts, is not a lavish or unreasonable adjustment to the budget figures.

With the 2019 legislative session on the horizon, it is important that lawmakers have an accurate financial picture in front of them. They will be weighing any number of important and lasting decisions, and they need an honest estimate.

The governor will present his preliminary budget plan this month, and lawmakers will have until April 8 to go over it and offer changes they would like to see. But the entire process rests on having a good outlook for the state’s financial situation. While it would be shortsighted to make that outlook any rosier than it actually is, making it gloomier than it actually is is just as much a disservice to the state and its residents – the people who use the services the government provides.

“I believe we have time to come back and make that state general fund adjustment in a timely manner,” Barras said after his most recent no vote.

Why wait? Why put off doing what nearly everyone else agrees is the right thing to do? Why not give people, particularly the teachers who could potentially benefit from realistic budget numbers, the best estimate possible?

With any luck, Barras will abandon his opposition to the change in time for the budget process to move forward unhindered by his obstruction. But there are no guarantees.


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