Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Math is different in Louisiana

A columnist for a Shreveport, LA newspaper, Emily Metzgar, tries to make sense of math as practiced in Louisiana:

Today’s Advocate has an article including comments from lawmakers and appointees about the need to cut spending and the struggles that lie ahead as those cuts are made. A few lines toward the end caught my attention:

Renee Free, first assistant to Secretary of State Al Ater, said she's been told the statewide election proposed in current legislation.... "If we have to do an election, you will have to appropriate $3.4 million," Free told the committee, explaining that the department doesn't have the money to pay for an election.”

Think way, way back to July 2005 when the governor vetoed a bill that would have eliminated one of the state’s several scheduled elections. I wrote a column and posted comments on this blog condemning the veto. My column in the Shreveport Times that week began,

In her inaugural address, Governor Blanco spoke of her intention to provide “a new kind of government in Louisiana -- one that is open, progressive and accountable to its people.” So when the state legislature passed a bill eliminating the state’s third-Saturday-in-January election date, expectations were high that the principle of good government might prevail this time around. HB 415 would, after all, have made the state more “open, progressive and accountable to its people” by eliminating what can only be considered a superfluous election date and by actually saving the state at least $500,000.

Not surprisingly that column was met with criticism by groups arguing that eliminating an election wouldn’t save the state any money at all.


So now, in November, I’m confused. To justify the veto of HB 415 in July, political interests (and the governor) argued that canceling one of the state’s many statewide elections would save the state no money. The $500,000 savings mentioned by the bill were ridiculed as inaccurate. But today, a representative of the Secretary of State’s office says in the Advocate that holding a scheduled election will cost the state $3.4 million.

Only in Louisiana could canceling an election not possibly save the state $500,000 while at the same time holding an election will cost the state $3.4. Assuming, as this suggests, that the rules of mathematics are suspended once you cross the border into Louisiana, the state should have no trouble paying FEMA its $3 billion and overcoming the anticipated hurricane-related state revenue loss of $ 1 billion.

And for the record, I fear this means the state bond commission opted to spend $45 million for goat shows, lawn mower races and other "critical projects" instead of on what could have been 13.235 elections (Do the math: $45 m/$3.4m).

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