We all know the story. Despite repeated warnings from conservatives, Governor Edwards embarked Louisiana on a tax and spend spree of historic magnitude. Now the results are coming due: 60,000 jobs lost, untold thousands leaving the state.
Once again Legislative conservatives are undertaking an effort to substantially correct our trajectory. The obvious answer would be to reduce spending and taxes. In Jindal’s first term we froze taxes and cut spending to the levels that existed prior to the spending orgy that followed Katrina. The people rewarded him with 71% of the vote at re-election.
I do not believe that reductions in spending are possible under Governor Edwards and apparently neither does the current group of conservatives in the Legislature. So, their plan is to restructure taxes to make Louisiana competitive with other states. With that in mind let me be so forthright as to draw on my time as one of the few true fiscally conservative Senators and make some suggestions.
First, go bold. The state is in dire straits, the time when minor adjustments would have been helpful are long past. The Governor and the Democrats will demand “compromise,” but what they really want is just to maintain the spending-spree status quo that keeps them in power by whittling down the reform effort. In truth, it would be better to put a bold package on the Governor’s desk and let him veto it than to compromise away the future of Louisiana’s children. As politicians point to 2021 and say, “we already did that,” to accept a watered-down package will kill any real reform for years to come.
There is always another governor, and that is not so far away.
Next, be strong in the face of lobbyists from every angle. Jindal’s greatest downfall was when in his second term we made the effort to eliminate the income tax, but he gave into the allure of special interests and cratered the whole concept. Just imagine if, as Tennessee had done, we had eliminated the income tax. Like them, we too would be a booming state.
Do not allow emotions influence your decisions. I know that there are times that you will be tugged by people who have severe problems. No doubt we need to assuage their needs but keep focused on the big picture. We are a state of 4.5 million people. You must do what is best for the whole, so that there are resources to take care of the neediest.
As a political leader it is important to be most concerned about the people and businesses in your district or vocation. Yet, there is great danger to a bold reform effort if individual industries or locales are given any special consideration. Make the playing field level for all, and all will prosper.
A key concern must be to restructure revenue and spending so that local government funds itself locally. From a democratic perspective local government must be held accountable to local voters. We all know that local politicians hate to go to their voters to ask for taxes, and so they just run to Baton Rouge. The result is poor results and wasteful spending. Fix it!
I spent eleven years of my life learning these lessons. I only hope that the legislators of today, without the leadership of a well-intentioned governor, don’t fall into the same pitfalls that swallowed our efforts. Louisiana is worth it. GO BOLD!