By COLIN CAMPO The Times of Houma-Thibodaux
The Louisiana State Treasurer held a presentation warning of dire straits ahead, if Louisiana doesn’t curb its spending.
John Schroeder, Louisiana State Treasurer, told his audience at the Terrebonne Chamber of Commerce’s general membership luncheon that while the state’s budget was growing at 6 percent, individual income within the state was only growing at 1 percent.
“If we don’t put our politics aside and tell you what you need to know, not what you want to know,” Schroder began. “And what you need to hear as oppose to what you want to hear, we are headed for a crash.”
The Terrebonne Chamber of Commerce, according to Suzanne Carlos, the president and CEO of the Terrebonne Chamber of Commerce, takes a broad scope view of the Parish and tries to find ways to help and improve things.
“We look at the broad picture of what’s going on in the parish: different issues and different events going on that affect us,” said Carlos. “And then we look at how we can help and improve them.”
In 2007, Schroder was elected
to the Louisiana House of Representatives where he represented St. Tammany and Tangipahoa Parishes. Although Schroder’s formal education includes a Bachelor of Science in Criminal Law, from Southeastern Louisiana University, he often speaks of his background in business as informing his decisions.
During his presentation Schroder recalled being elected on a Saturday, moving into his office on Monday, and being asked to produce his budget. This prompted him to decide on a “standstill budget,” which he summarized, “we’re guna spend this year, what we spent last year.”
Schroder told attendees, he then noticed a problem arising, he said the numbers weren’t adding up:
“My budget goes over like this, so I got salaries and related benefits and operations, and it basically went over even,” said Schroder. “Well it came back like this: they took almost a half million dollars out of my operations to make mandatory pay raises and related benefits.”
According to Schroder, Medicaid needed revising.
“I don’t know if ya’ll know this or not, but healthcare in Louisiana consumes about half our budget,” claimed Schroder. “It was cut by about 2 billion dollars and it was still 2 and a half billion than it was 2 years ago.”
Schroder asserted that its growing at a rate that’s unaffordable: one reason for this, he says, fraud. Schroder cited a Legislative study committee as evidence.
“[The study committee] came up with a recommendation that we would match the records of Medicaid folks with tax record,” Schroder said. “cuz they feel like about 28 thousand people are on the Medicaid roles that shouldn’t be there.”
It didn’t pass, said Schroder.
Capital outlay was also raised as a serious concern. Schroder said it was a tool used by Governors of the past.
“This is where governors of the past – and I say governors with a plural because this has been going on for a time,” he said. “Until they fix the capital outlay process of Baton Rouge, that’s what the governors basically use to blackmail the election vote. I hate to be so blunt, but it’s politically corrupt, ‘ you vote this way, I’ll give you this.'”
He said it forces legislators to abide by governors to receive funding for projects.
Schroder said the worst thing he witnessed in his time in Baton Rouge was when a bill was passed, and legislators took money from the Louisiana Savings account to avoid a shortfall, “They basically take 99 billion from your savings account and out it in your checking account.”
“They didn’t need the money. They wound up having a 128 billion dollar surplus, and all that means is they budgeted for this amount and didn’t spend it,” he said, adding that he was upset that the money was then spent on what people called, important projects. “Yeah it’s an important project, but you took the money from your savings account – which is supposed to be used when Louisiana is in deep trouble.”