Hope springs eternal, especially in regard to the Louisiana Legislature. Their new session starts on Monday and there is much work to be done. With a large Republican majority in both houses, there are positive signs that encouraging legislation will be passed in the areas of election integrity and second amendment rights.
While these are incredibly important issues, legislators must address our moribund economy and pass legislation to increase the freedom that our citizens enjoy in this post COVID-19 world.
The research group Wallethub just released an economic study of all 50 states and the findings show that Louisiana was the hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. According to Wallethub analyst Jill Gonzalez, Louisiana’s economy is heavily dependent on several industries that have been negatively impacted by COVID-19.
These industries include “oil and gas extraction; accommodation and food services; arts, entertainment and recreation; and retail trade.” Gonzalez also noted that the state’s “rainy day fund” is depleted, covering “just 5.4 percent of its general fund expenses for 2021.”
Since our economy has been devastated and our state government has limited funds in reserve, it is especially disturbing to learn that there is incredible waste occurring in our Louisiana Workforce Commission. A new report by the Louisiana Legislative Auditor discovered that Louisiana has paid $405 million in improper unemployment payments to 97,585 people. These were people who received benefits despite being employed.
It is an outrage that such fraud is occurring especially when there are so many people in Louisiana in true need of assistance. In the latest workforce report, Louisiana’s unemployment rate was 7.6%, while the national average was only 6.0%. Louisiana has the highest unemployment rate in the South.
In the past six years, the number of employed people in Louisiana has dropped by over 100,000. In the February 2021 report only 1,919,100 people were employed in Louisiana.
Why are our neighboring states doing so much better than Louisiana? One important reason is that Texas, Florida, Tennessee, and other states do not have an income tax. This attracts wealthy individuals who bring businesses, jobs, and disposable income with them to these states.
Not only does Louisiana still have a personal income tax, but the state also burdens the business community with a franchise tax and the highest corporate tax rate (8.0%) in the South. No wonder Louisiana was one of only eight states in the country and the only state in the South to lose population.
It is increasingly frustrating to live in Louisiana, a state that should be prospering with all of the natural resources we enjoy but is facing extreme economic hardships. In Louisiana, individuals and businesses are both forced to suffer from antiquated tax rates. Our private sector has been decimated, while our public sector remains large and inefficient.
One of the reasons for these horrible results is that Louisiana is led by a woefully “woke” liberal Democratic Governor, John Bel Edwards. Our major tourist attraction and economic engine, New Orleans, is led by another “woke” warrior, Democratic Mayor LaToya Cantrell.
Liberal policies do not work and result in economic misery, poverty, broken families, failing infrastructure, poor schools, high crime rates and illegal drug consumption. Our surrounding states are performing better because most of their leaders are conservative Republicans. As a result, Louisiana is suffering, while our neighboring states are enjoying economic progress.
Not only have Texas and Florida been especially successful in their tax policies, but also in their responses to the COVID-19 pandemic. Both states, along with Mississippi, Alabama, and a host of other ones, have lifted their mask mandates. Of course, in Louisiana, there remains a mask mandate as well as other pandemic restrictions that the Governor has enacted. All these measures have done is decrease the freedom of citizens and depress economic activity while delivering scant protection from the spread of the coronavirus.
Along with dropping the mask mandates, both Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and Texas Governor Greg Abbott have issued executive orders banning vaccine passports in state government. In Florida, this order has been extended to cover all businesses as well. Of course, no such executive order has been issued by Governor Edwards. Sadly, he enjoys ordering citizens around and has an aversion to allowing the people of Louisiana to exercise their freedom.
It seems Texas and Florida among many other Southern states have shown us the way. Unfortunately, we refuse to learn from their example. Until we learn, those states, including Alabama and Mississippi, will continue to poach our citizens and our businesses. Who can blame anyone for wanting to live in another state that offers more freedom and more opportunity to financially succeed?
Louisiana legislators have a serious challenge in front of them. Hopefully, they will make some progress in this upcoming session. Our state is losing ground and falling further behind, so the time for talk is over. It is time for real, concrete action.
Jeff Crouere is a native New Orleanian and his award winning program, “Ringside Politics,” airs nationally on Real America’s Voice Network, AmericasVoice.News weekdays at 7 a.m. CT and from 7-11 a.m. weekdays on WGSO 990-AM & Wgso.com. He is a political columnist, the author of America’s Last Chance and provides regular commentaries on the Jeff Crouere YouTube channel and on Crouere.net. For more information, email him at [email protected]