$827 Million Free-for-all
You can almost hear our lawmakers licking their chops as the State's $827 million budget surplus was announced today. Of course this money will not be spent where it is needed the most - in New Orleans - but will be used to boost politicians' standings with their constituents throughout Louisiana, including that of Gov. Blanco. Her quote in the Times-Picayune says it best: "This surplus is not a blank check. We will make sound choices that benefit our citizens not just in the recovery area, but throughout the state." Spread the money around for a bunch of local projects to get reelected, not where it is truly needed or where it will provide the most benefits in the future. That sounds just like the Louisiana of old.
This surplus is a short-term gain from the increased revenue from reconstruction and Federal money given to the State. However, due to the devestation to the New Orleans economy from Katrina, the long-term economic future of Louisiana is at best grim, and lacking any political leadership at the State level, potentially hopeless. The only spending of surplus dollars by the State should be to help resurrect the New Orleans economy through infrastructure rebuilding. This includes several priority areas that will insure the future economic growth of New Orleans (and thus, Louisiana) such as schools for elementary and secondary education, rebuilding of medical centers to create a premier suite of medical and bioscience teaching and research institutions, roads and mass transit both locally and regionally, and rebuilding of City Park with destination-level tennis and golf course facilities.
Of course, none of this will happen. The surplus will be used to buy votes through giving all homeowners a one-time payment to "reduce" their homeowner's insurance burden, giving a George Bush-style tax rebate check back to all taxpayers, and funding politicians' pet projects in places like Shreveport, Monroe and Baton Rouge. Count on it - business as usual.