The long-heralded Louisiana Statewide Business Summit has ended in a cloud of self-congratulatory remarks by John Bel Edwards. Per the Governor, just like LSU’s football team, the state is fresh off a “big victory.”
Evidence of this big victory eludes us, however. In actuality, the Governor’s summit primarily consisted of administration officials and certain well-heeled campaign contributors, along with a few legitimate industry leaders for visual effect. Strangely and for reasons unknown, outsiders found it impossible to obtain admission to the event, even when inquiries were made soon after the summit was announced.
But back to the Governor’s closing remarks; Edwards’ touting of great gains in industrial growth and jobs under his administration must be seen as the second act of his re-election narrative. Surely, the first act must have been his blustering speech at the end of the third and final 2018 legislative session, and then regurgitated today to the effect that the fiscal problems of the state have been solved. (They have only been resolved possibly for this election year, to no one’s surprise.) The Governor’s re-election narrative would make for a mirthful comedy if it were not for the tragic consequences of his administration’s three-year fixation on higher taxes and fees to solve this state’s terrible fiscal problems.
Consider that Louisiana now has the seventh worst economic growth rate and the third highest unemployment rate in the nation, in spite of the fact that Louisiana has the greatest natural resources per capita of any state. Tens of thousands of Louisianans have already left the state, with additional hundreds of thousands sure to follow if, God forbid, the Governor is re-elected. Of course, these disappointing statistics are simply the effects and not the causes of consistently bad government under Governor Edwards’ administration. So let’s take a look at some of the Governor’s legislative “achievements” and their effect on industry and job growth:
HIGHER SALES TAXES: For the sake of clarification, the Governor did not reduce our sales taxes, despite his claims to that effect- he merely replaced a temporary tax with a lower permanent one and falsely took credit for reducing taxes. The real effect will be to raise taxes beyond the short term. Higher sales taxes discourage industrial growth, and our sales taxes are the highest in the nation. Certainly, there are no industry or job gains to be had here.
HIGHER BUSINESS TAXES & FEES: John Bel Edwards’ administration has raised taxes and fees on businesses faster than any other state in the last three years. This is an absolute disincentive for industry to locate or expand in Louisiana, and a job killer in the bargain.
GIVING LOCAL GOVERNMENT CONTROL OVER THE INDUSTRIAL TAX EXEMPTION PROGRAM (ITEP): This eighty-year-old program gave industries that moved or expanded their operations in Louisiana an exemption from paying local property taxes on their manufacturing facilities which lasts up to ten years. Additionally, John Bel Edwards foolishly gave local government bodies, down to the school board level, the ability to nix these exemptions that were originally designed to partially offset all the disincentives existing elsewhere in the statutes and tax code. The largest employer in the state (Exxon/Mobil) just lost a tax exemption because of the objections of a local school board, resulting in a loss of investment in Louisiana. More projects will no doubt fall prey to various socialist-progressive, anti-business, small-time political news-hounds. Well done, Governor, if that was your intention to chase industry and jobs out of Louisiana!
And these are just his signature “achievements” to date. Don’t forget all of his other attempts to raise taxes, which only failed due to Republican opposition. Going forward, we are advised that the Governor plans to introduce legislation to raise the gas tax (certainly not an incentive to attract industry and jobs), and to greatly increase the state’s minimum wage (an absolute job killer especially damaging to less experienced and currently unemployed workers).
So here we are as we begin our fourth year under the John Bel Edwards’ administration: Higher than average unemployment, lower than average job growth, a declining population, the highest sales tax in the nation, extremely high business fees and taxes, the worst performing government in the nation by almost all metrics, and no possibility of real reforms being implemented under this Democrat Governor.
If John Bel Edwards wants to take credit for these economic “achievements” of the last three years, so be it!