Editor’s Note: A guest post from Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry.
Now that the Special Session of the Louisiana Legislature is over, let us do a recap.
On December 20, 2017, Governor Edwards publicly stated that he would not call the Special Session unless he had reached a consensus – a deal – with the Legislature on how to move forward and fix the continuing fiscal problems in our state under his watch.
It is now obvious that he called the session without that consensus. Or, maybe he had a deal; but could not get his political base, including the Legislative Black Caucus, to support it. In essence, the Governor was once again “all hat and no cattle.”
What is clear is that the Louisiana House Republicans had a consensus even prior to the Governor’s call for a special session. Republicans, by a substantial majority, would not support more revenue measures without substantial reductions in spending. It seems the Governor’s only interest was to further burden Louisiana’s families and economy with more tax increases.
Some Republicans had worked to make a deal with the Governor. In exchange for much-needed reforms and caps to the biggest budgetary liability of the State – Medicaid, some Republicans agreed to various revenue measures.
Republican-supported fiscal reforms included the concept of a Medicaid welfare work requirement, a reform that has been successfully implemented in other states. This change has two very worthy goals: reducing the number of able-bodied individuals on the rolls and reducing the overall expenses to the program.
It should not be controversial to incentivize the non-disabled to find jobs, especially at a time when the nation’s economy is on the upswing. It is also fiscally responsible to try putting a lid on a welfare program that has exploded since the Governor single-handedly expanded it.
However, Governor Edwards does not seem interested in common-sense welfare reform – only more spending and more welfare.
By the Governor’s own projections, we have more than 150,000 people “unexpectedly” enrolled in the Medicaid welfare program. I put that in quotations because anytime you give something away, the demand for it explodes. Especially under the conditions which Edwards expanded Medicaid eligibility, it should be no surprise that we had this welfare explosion.
Requiring people who are not disabled to work for a benefit is common sense. The idea of co-pays for Medicaid has also been shown to reduce and stabilize Medicaid spending when implemented in other states. Again, this is Economics 101. Apparently, the Governor and his Caucus are not interested in common-sense reforms.
With some Republican support for a compromise also came an effort to remove exemptions that some enjoy in the sales tax. In reducing the current sales tax by 3/4ths of one cent and leveling the playing field by removing those exemptions doled out over the years to special interests, some Louisianans would actually see a reduction in their tax burdens. However, the Governor did not embrace this reform because – if he did so – he could not keep his share of the frogs in the wheelbarrow.
For those who argued that tax reform would hurt the economically-challenged, we need to look at the facts. Medicine, food, and utilities are already exempt from the sales tax. Furthermore, their math simply does not hold up. If two different people buy cars with one paying $60,000 and the other paying $20,000, and if both are taxed at 10%, who pays more tax? The more expensive vehicle owner pays $6,000 and the other pays 1/3 of that amount with a bill of $2,000. What is regressive about this?
Despite what the Governor’s spinmeisters have said, the truth is there was a compromise. The Republican leadership was willing to compromise and did. They offered a resolution with changes in revenue and, more importantly, changes that would put Louisiana’s biggest budget liability – Medicaid welfare – on a path to sustainability. As the Federal subsidy will soon end and Louisiana’s cost share will increase by billions of dollars, reform is desperately needed to maintain this program.
Unfortunately, we have a governor who is allowing the State to be dragged further into the abyss simply because of his determination to stick to failed, extreme liberal policies.
If you voted for John Bel because you believed his promises of not raising taxes and of being fiscally conservative, you have been duped. And if you believe he had a deal before he called the Special Session – at a cost of $900,000 that the State does not have, you have been duped yet again.