As our new governor and the Louisiana Legislature struggle to find consensus on how to keep the ship of state from sinking into the abyss, our legislators would do well to consider how we arrived here and what’s at stake for all of the good people of Louisiana, not just the special interests who wield outsize influence over our fiscal policy.
In fact, Louisiana faces our current financial emergency precisely because the previous administration, to serve its own political ambition, gave business and industry more in tax credits, exemptions and refunds than the state actually collected from corporations. The previous administration’s own 2015 study found that in 2012, of the 87 largest companies that filed corporate tax returns in 2012, only one-quarter of them paid any corporate income taxes at all in Louisiana, even though, as The Advocate reported, 96 percent of those that make financial reports public said they were profitable.
At the same time, working families in Louisiana paid among the highest sales tax in the country. And that’s before the one-cent sales-tax increase the legislature approved last week.
The special-interest lobbyists and many of the same members of the legislature who approved the smoke-and-mirrors, phony budgets of the past administration now cannot muster the courage to clean up the mess they helped make. They want working families to pay even more: They proposed a second, additional sales-tax increase, while business and industry have not agreed to any significant increases on taxes OR curbing the tax credits and subsidies they receive from the taxpaying citizens of Louisiana.
Louisiana is the country’s second biggest energy producer and the second poorest state in the union. Making working families pay even more in taxes while oil and gas companies receive hundreds of millions in subsidies from state taxpayers while at the same time not paying tens of millions of dollars in royalties and severance taxes they do owe the state is just wrong. It’s a crime against justice.
What’s worse, these legislators and special interests are trying to hold Gov. John Bel Edwards and the people of Louisiana hostage: These legislators will let our public colleges, universities and safety-net hospitals close their doors — further compromising the future of our young people and causing more sick people to needlessly suffer — rather than vote to spread the burden of saving our state from fiscal catastrophe.
Make no mistake about it, if our already-struggling institutions of higher education face further cuts, if any of our safety-net hospitals are forced to close or significantly curtail services, the business reputation of Louisiana will suffer for years to come, resulting in irreparable harm to economic development and job growth. Quite simply, Louisiana will be derided as more of a backwater where the rich and powerful prey on working families.
Tough times call for shared sacrifice. The working families of Louisiana are already paying more than their fair share to fix a crisis they did not create. It is now past time for the special interests that helped create this mess to do their part, and give a little after too many years of taking too much from the good people of Louisiana.
Whatever your position on this issue, here’s how you can make your voice heard before today’s 6 p.m. conclusion of the special legislative session:
Louisiana State Senate: (225) 342- 2040
Louisiana House of Representatives: (225) 342-6945
Find out who your legislators are at this link: https://www.legis.la.gov/legis/FindMyLegislators.aspx
Lt. Gen. Russel Honore led the U.S. Army response to Hurricane Katrina. Now retired from active military service, he leads the GreenARMY in defense of Louisiana’s environment, responsible government and the best interests of the general public.