Editor’s Note: A guest post by John Kay, the Louisiana State Director of Americans for Prosperity.
By now, we have all heard the tired line about the state budget predicament: There are too few dollars flowing into state government from business and too many things that just cannot be cut. You’d think, by listening to the governor and many in the legislature, that every stone has been turned, every ounce of fat has been cut from the state budget, and the only option is to raise taxes – again.
That simply isn’t true. In fact, Louisiana’s state budget continues to grow yearly, exploding since 2014. It makes no sense to continue down the path of continuing to raise taxes on Louisianans simply struggling to pay their own bills.
Yet that’s where we find ourselves. We have a governor who has proposed a $1.5 billion tax increase based on a gross receipts tax that even the state’s own economist doesn’t understand the effects of. Hopefully the legislature will place this ill-conceived plan where it belongs – in the garbage.
One tax seems to still have some life – a massive gas tax increase that could hit taxpayers to the tune of $700 million. To be sure, roads in Louisiana are in bad shape and plenty of projects need to be tackled.
But Secretary Shawn Wilson and Governor Edwards seem to think that the only way to solve these problems is continuing to raise taxes on the citizens of this state, and that this strategy will somehow make Louisiana a better place.
In doing so, they ignore the numbers presented by CRISIS regarding how the state Department of Transportation and Development spends the money in the Transportation Trust Fund. The report shows that out of the $685 million in the fund, only $77.3 million goes to actual road construction and repair—an appalling 11.3 percent. That means that for every dollar you spend at the pump on a gas tax, nearly 90 percent goes to something other than roads. Instead of raising our taxes, Baton Rouge could use them for their intended purpose.
The Pelican State hands out over $180 million every year to Hollywood executives with little economic effect. How can a state legislator in good conscience vote for a budget that keeps these handouts and vote for a gas tax increase that would further exacerbate our economy’s decline? Not only does it not make sense, it’s unconscionable.
In fact, simply eliminating the $180 million Hollywood handout would pay for a new bridge over the Mississippi River in Baton Rouge in just five years. And that’s just one line item of many in our bloated state budget.
Louisiana finds itself at a crossroads with difficult decisions that must be made very soon. It remains to be seen whether the legislature will make one decision that shouldn’t be difficult at all – prioritizing Louisianans and our roads over Hollywood bigshots.