APPEL: The Republican Rebuttal To JBE’s Budget Bluster

The following is a letter that the Republican Acadiana delegation has sent to the media. It refutes many of the arguments that are being expressed by the governor’s PR apparatus and places the current situation on a much clearer foundation.

In a nutshell, conservatives want government that is efficient and effective. At the same time we believe that it is far past time to get our state out of last place in everything! In order to that we need reform of government, not non-strategic cuts or tax increases. We need government that works, at the lowest cost to taxpayers.

The reason this is critical is because only a vibrant and growing economy will get us out of the gutter. That can only happen if we are a state that is willing to change to meet 21st demands; demands that are prerequisites to a strong economy.

Our governor is good at asking for more money, but he has not offered one element of a vision of where we need to go. Republican conservatives want a solid fiscal foundation for Louisiana but when we are asked to increases taxes with no corresponding vision of how or why it is to be spent we ask ourselves – are just increasing taxes to fund the same old policies that have landed us in last place?

We are spending at the highest level in the history of Louisiana.

We have increased state generated revenues by $1.1 billion in two years. Sure we have to stabilize the next budget but it must be based upon reform as well as some revenue. We don’t need just more taxes, we need a vision and leadership to get our state to a much better place!

LETTER TO THE EDITOR: A VISION FOR LOUISIANA

With Louisiana’s budget situation, it’s déjà vu all over again. There has been much talk recently of the approximately $1.5 billion budget shortfall facing Louisiana this year. This latest “fiscal cliff” can be explained by a number of factors, the most important of which is the continued growth in our state government’s spending.

In his first two years in office, Governor John Bel Edwards has requested and received $1.38 billion in temporary taxes, $754 million in permanent taxes and tens of millions in new fees, all while growing the state budget by a massive $5.2 billion. When he took office in 2016, Gov. Edwards asked the legislature to build a temporary bridge to address a billion-dollar shortfall for that year and a $2 billion shortfall in 2017. This bridge was meant to stabilize the state’s budget for a short term, while the legislature debated sustainable reform solutions that avoided permanently increasing your taxes.

The governor’s recently released plan to address the upcoming shortfall is a permanent increase on income taxes as well as a new tax on certain services. There appears to be no addressing of spending and budget reform, the waste and lack of transparency in government departments or the lack of control in the expansion of Medicaid. There has also been no real evidence of initiative from the administration to improve Louisiana’s business and legal environment, which is the life blood of the state’s tax base.

The governor’s notion that fiscally conservative Louisiana legislators have no plan to address the fiscal cliff is far from the truth. Last year, fiscal conservatives in the House tried to slow the growth of government by spending 98 percent of what the state estimated to take in, pushing for transparency in state departments and trying to reform the capital outlay process. This approach would have cut the present fiscal cliff by approximately $264 million. Conservatives in the legislature also had a plan to freeze spending over a two-year period, which would have effectively cut the fiscal cliff in half. This was the beginning of a solution that built trust in how tax dollars are used. Without the governor’s support and leadership on these budget reforms, the measures failed in the Legislature.

Fiscal conservatives in the House understand the challenges ahead. In fact, we saw it coming last year and spoke up about it. Now, as Gov. Edwards walks us to the edge of another cliff, he looks to those who warned him previously, saying, “What’s your plan?”

We look forward to having discussions with the administration about greater transparencies, fiscal reform and our spending priorities. We will work tirelessly to figure out a plan that works for taxpayers and our state’s future prosperity instead of just satisfying the status quo in government. Other states have accomplished this without stirring the public into panic or increasing taxes.

The first step in solving these issues is to admit that Louisiana has a spending problem and understand that government cannot tax its way to prosperity. We are honored to be your voice in Baton Rouge. We appreciate your consideration and for allowing us to serve the great state we all call home.

Rep. Blake Miguez, District 49
Rep. Nancy Landry, District 31
Rep. Julie Emerson, District 39
Rep. Phillip DeVillier, District 41
Rep. John Stefanski, District 42
Rep. Stuart Bishop, District 43
Rep. Jean-Paul Coussan, District 45
Rep. Bob Hensgens, District 47
Rep. Beryl Amedée, District 51

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