In 2009, state Treasurer John N. Kennedy called for a cut of 5,000 state employees each year for three years. It was the cornerstone pledge of his agitation against the big spender in charge of state government - Gov. Bobby Jindal, as it happens.
Now, 5,000 is a good round number. Perfect for the headlines.
In the years since, reckless tax cuts and economic malaise have taken a toll on the state budget. Jindal has pushed to privatize state services and cut state employees at various levels.
State employment is now at its lowest level in 20 years, according to independent studies. Jindal's proposed budget for fiscal year 2013 would cut more.
So what does Kennedy, still seeking to be more conservative than Jindal, push this year? Two bills by Rep. Dee Richard, No Party-Thibodaux. One bill mandates a 10 percent cut in consulting contracts. Another mandates a cut of 5,000 state employees each year over the next three years.
The House passed both bills, a relatively easy thing to do since both are essentially meaningless: The Senate is unlikely to take them up, and in any case their vague provisions would be overridden by the specific appropriations and staffing levels in the budget bill that is also now before the Legislature.
What concerns us is the question of why, if 5,000 per year was the right number in late 2008, is it still the right number in 2012?
We think the answer to the question is evident. It's a political slogan, not a serious exercise in budgeting.