Editor’s Note: A guest post from Tony Ligi…
It is clearly evident that regardless of who our Governor is or of the make-up of the House and Senate, Louisiana refuses to address the seminal issue facing our state. Our state government is undisciplined and out of conformity with our financial resources but many of our elected leadership refuse to address this reality. They refuse to make the tough decisions for our state’s long-term health because of short-term pain. “Kicking the can down the road” seems to be the prevalent policy standard.
Those state leaders who long for a better future for Louisiana and are willing to make the tough decision to “right-size” and prioritize our state government are clearly outnumbered by those wearing blinders and by administrations that are tone deaf to the anxiety of individuals and businesses being stressed financially while our state government hands them an ever-increasing tax tab.
Common sense and achievable solutions to budget issues are routinely brushed off. For example, creation of a single board for higher education that would achieve greater cost savings through non-duplication and cutting administrative expense while providing a more focused and effective system of higher education is an obvious solution that would be in our state’s long-term interest. This is the kind of decision that visionary leaders in other responsible states would make.
Another example – why does our state fund local governments when funds needed for local governance should be assessed and collected at the local level? It’s clearly obvious that local level accountability for the amount and use of funds is a more logical and effective system but our state prefers to perpetuate a system of funding of local governments because that’s the way it’s been done and why change now.
It’s an antiquated system that demonstrates no vision. The use of state funds to finance local government to any degree draws away from the ability of the state to fund vital statewide services such as higher education, infrastructure and healthcare.
And let’s not forget the ever-looming issue of public pension reform which is perpetually dismissed with little or no discussion to the detriment of current and future budgets. These are just a few examples of needed fixes that would create a leaner and more effective budget.
Our own households and businesses could not survive financially if we did not identify and prioritize our expenses and tailor them to our ability to meet those expenses. State government on the other hand seems all too willing to engage in either budgetary gimmicks or an orgy of taxes to fund itself without any real attempt at addressing its structure and priorities and the ability of its citizens to incur taxes imposed.
Those all too few legislators who continue to battle against our undisciplined and backward governance model by seeking to bring about structural change and focus should continue to aggressively fight for reform. If reforms are put in place, then we can rationally determine what the tax burden should be.
Imposition of heavier tax burden on individuals and businesses without any commitment to structural change within our state will continue to keep Louisiana as a backward state, constantly in budgetary flux while other states achieve greatness through discipline and smart long-term decision making.
Tony Ligi, a former Republican state representative from Kenner, is the Executive Director of the Jefferson Business Council.