Editor’s Note: A guest post from Louisiana Treasurer John Schroder. This piece originally appeared in USA Today Network newspapers across Louisiana.
In the 2019 legislative session, our state had an opportunity to adopt common sense, bipartisan solutions to protect taxpayer money while paving the way for increased investment in our infrastructure.
I supported legislation which would have protected Louisianans’ unclaimed property money and invested it. The earnings would have been used to fund local government infrastructure projects. This system has proven extremely successful in other states and would have raised millions for desperately needed infrastructure without raising taxes. Our state – so often ranked last in economic and good governance indicators – would have benefited tremendously.
Last year our government spent the most money in Louisiana history and what do we have to show for it? While the rest of the country, including our Texas neighbors, have enjoyed a booming national economy, the current administration has done nothing to stimulate this state’s sluggish economy. For the third consecutive year, Louisiana ranks 50th out of 50 in U.S. News & World Report’s widely respected Best States survey.
Wallethub.com studies rank Louisiana’s return on taxpayer investment ranked dead last and its economy 50th in the nation, making this the third year in a row Louisiana has been at the bottom.
Unfortunately, while the unclaimed property infrastructure reform passed in a bipartisan manner in the House of Representatives, this common sense legislation was killed in the Senate, due in large part to opposition from Gov. John Bel Edwards. This was the second year in a row that the governor had a hand in killing this reform.
This legislation was not the only pro-taxpayer, fiscally prudent proposal to die this session. From legislation to rein in out-of-control car insurance costs, to rolling back the sales tax increase, several bills met the same fate of taking a backseat to the governor’s political agenda in an election year.
Gov. Edwards’ campaign slogan may be “people over politics,” but his administration’s actions prove his catchy tagline is just an example of saying one thing and doing another.
He said he wouldn’t raise taxes then he pushed through the largest tax increase in Louisiana history with dire threats of fiscal disaster. He said he would institute work requirements for Medicaid – then he abandoned that promise despite a scathing audit exposing tens of millions in taxpayer funds.
The governor said in 2017 he would support a spending cap – then his administration opposed a proposal to institute one this year.
Since he took office, I have watched the governor and his team play a fiscal game of chicken with Louisiana taxpayers’ hard-earned dollars. First it was threats to TOPS, then it was ending LSU football and then it was kicking elderly people out of nursing homes.
Lawmakers were painted into a corner with dire forecasts and set up with the difficult choice of either increasing sales taxes or facing the scare tactic scenarios fabricated by the governor.
Ironically, after leveraging threats to pass and extend a “temporary” sales tax increase, the state ended up with a significant budget surplus. Despite having consecutive surpluses, Gov. Edwards shut down legislative proposals which would have rolled back his billion-dollar tax hike.
These extra tax dollars could have and should have remained in our citizens’ pockets. Surpluses are great when they come as a result of sound fiscal policy, but not when they come on the backs of Louisiana taxpayers.
The proposals I supported this session would have protected money belonging to the people and would have stopped government from being allowed to spend it. In the case of unclaimed property money, I believe the law is on the people’s side. Going forward, I will not release the funds and I will fight to keep the people’s money from going into the general fund to fuel this administration’s addiction to spending.
Whatever rosy picture Gov. Edwards might paint with his campaign rhetoric, “People over Politics” is in direct contrast to what he is actively doing in blocking common sense, fiscal reforms to address the state’s broken fiscal structure.
Louisiana taxpayers are sick and tired of government spending every dime it has and every dime it thinks it’s going to have. Until the governor starts making the strategic changes necessary to secure Louisiana’s future, he will never truly put people over politics.