Predictably, the business community is in high dudgeon over Gov. John Bel Edwards’ initial proposals to address the fiscal mess left by his predecessor—you know, the guy who thought he was presidential timber.
Judging from the early reaction of his die-hard opponents, including the Louisiana’s Rush Limburger wannabe Jeff (so) Sadow, Edwards is already a major flop just two weeks into the job. As much as I detest Mike Foster’s love child, I gave him nearly four years before abandoning any hope that he had the slightest concern for the people of this state.
Personally, I can’t think of a single person on the face of the good earth who could come into this job and successfully turn the state around in eight years, let alone four. It’s a daunting task that no sane candidate should relish.
In coaching, no one wants to be the one to follow a legend. You want to be the one who follows the one who follows the legend. Well, no one should want to be the one to inherit a disaster. You want to be the one who follows the one who tried to right the ship so if things are looking up, you can ride the momentum and take credit for the recovery.
With that in mind, here are a few observations:
The Baton Rouge Advocate on Sunday ran an outstanding analysis of the undeniable disaster in high education funding left by Jindal. The story was especially timely in light of Edwards’ announcement of even more draconian cuts facing high ed as he tries to cope with $750 million in budget deficits for the current fiscal year and a $1.9 billion budget gap for next fiscal year—all to be covered with shrinking revenues. http://theadvocate.com/news/14621878-123/special-report-how-startling-unique-cuts-have-transformed-louisianas-universities
LSU President F. King Alexander has gone on record as saying summer school may have to be cancelled at LSU. That’s the same type of dire warning as his “financial exigency” threat last year. That worked to get legislators’ attention and warded off the threatened bankruptcy. This threat of the cancellation of summer classes is a similar wakeup call to lawmakers—if they can get their heads from the place where only their proctologists can find them.
Even Jindal’s head cheerleader Rolfe McCollister inexplicably allowed Jeremy Alford to reveal in McCollister’s Baton Rouge Business Report that Edwards learned to his surprise that Piyush had approved millions of dollars in pay raises and made almost two dozen board and commission appointments that were not announced.
As a sign that McCollister may not be paying enough attention to his publication, he also allowed an Associated Press story that said Jindal left Edwards a gaggle of economic development deal IOUs.
But when Edwards suggested a tax package to help meet the fiscal disaster head-on, you’d have though from LABI’s reaction, that he was demanding the first-born of every businessman in the state.
Never mind that the Tax Foundation released a report last week that revealed that Louisiana has the sixth-lowest tax burden in America in the 2012 fiscal year.
While the rest of the country was paying an average of one dollar for every $10 earned in state and local taxes (exclusive of federal taxes), Louisiana citizens were paying only 76 cents for every $10 earned.
The per capita state and local taxes of $2,940 paid is fourth-lowest in the country and the state’s cigarette tax is one of the lowest. Edwards is seeking to increase the 86-cent cigarette tax to $1.08, which would bring Louisiana more in line with other states.
The state’s effective property tax rate of .5 percent is third lowest but the combined state and local sales tax rate (arguably the most regressive tax) of 8.9 percent is third highest.
Edwards says the days of using budget gimmicks are over. “This administration will remove the smoke and mirrors and provide the facts about where we are,” he said, in a not-so-subtle slap at Jindal. http://theadvocate.com/news/14619324-75/gov-john-bel-edwards-outlines-budget-options
State Sen. Jack Donahue, in a rare exhibition of lucidity for a legislator, told The Advocate, “…the proof of the pudding is in the eating, and so what did we spend (state revenue) on? Motion pictures; we spent it on solar power; we spent it on enterprise zone tax credits; we spent it on new market tax credits. We spent millions and millions and millions of dollars on all those things; so obviously, they were more important than our education.” http://theadvocate.com/news/14621878-123/special-report-how-startling-unique-cuts-have-transformed-louisianas-universities
Well, Senator, you said it. And you were oh, so accurate to employ the pronoun “we.” Hindsight, as they say, is 20/20 and yours is flawless. Other than Edwards, Rep. Rogers Pope, and Sens. Ed Murray and Dan Claitor, and maybe a couple others, I can’t recall many objections to the Jindal giveaway years coming from either chamber over the past eight years.
So now, Edwards wants to roll back some those insanely, ill-advised, foolish, thoughtless corporate tax breaks, and the corporate world is already screaming rape. Hey, guys, the honeymoon is—or should be—over. It’s way past time for the middle- and low-income citizens of this state to be relieved of the heaviest tax burdens while you guys get all those tax breaks, exemptions and incentives to create minimum-wage jobs—if jobs are even created at all. I mean, does anyone really think oil and gas will leave Louisiana when the oil and gas is here? To get to it, they have to come here. Do we really need Enterprise Zone credits for Wal-Marts in St. Tammany Parish?
As Edwards said, it’s time for the governor’s office to be “not business as usual.”
He will make mistakes. He will do things I don’t agree with. I was never under the illusion that I would agree with every single action he takes. No politician, like a rooster in a henhouse, could ever please everyone all the time.
And when he does displease me, I will say so. But for now, I’m more than willing to at least let him get his feet wet. We all owe him that much.