It may not feel like it just yet, but 2023 is an election year. So far, most of the attention has focused on who’s running for governor and, just as often, who is not. That will likely sort itself out soon, but once it does, the critical question has to be what the field of candidates will tell us about their vision for Louisiana’s future.
The 2023 elections will be vitally important because we know we will be electing a new governor and ushering in yet another class of legislators filling the vacancies caused by term limits. What that means is that no matter what, change is coming.
That poses two fundamental questions. What kind of change will those candidates be offering, and will it be focused on the things Louisiana needs to gain ground in the areas where we lag behind?
Sadly, recent history in elections around the country suggests what the script will likely look like – candidate attacks on each other and a focus on things that get voters fired up, but too often don’t address the real issues that hold us back.
To address that, CABL is again partnering with the Public Affairs Research Council and the Committee of 100 for Economic Development on an initiative we first advanced in 2019 called RESET Louisiana’s Future. Simply put, RESET is a nonpartisan effort by three independent organizations to focus attention on some of the critical issues that need our attention to move Louisiana forward.
As we have done previously, we’re targeting four key issue areas: education and workforce; state fiscal policies; infrastructure; and criminal justice and public safety.
While our efforts in 2019 didn’t eliminate all of the politics-as-usual, we do believe they contributed to some of the meaningful advances we saw in the Legislature over the last three years. That includes such things as:
- Significant improvements in our individual and corporate income tax policies.
- The first new investment in transportation infrastructure in 30 years.
- Additional support for early childhood education.
- Initiatives to turn around our concerning declines in early reading.
- And, policies to provide greater access to postsecondary education and workforce training.
As for CABL, we will be making our own push to more effectively use relevant data to drive policy debates this year and policy improvements for the future. Too often, we see things on social media or hear something from a candidate that grabs our attention, but distracts us from some of the fundamental issues we know we need to address.
We believe reliable and trusted data can be an effective tool for bringing us back to reality and creating a narrative that can not only point out our problems, but focus attention on finding solutions. To that end, we will be placing a lot of effort this year on researching and promoting good data. That will include a user-friendly dashboard of indicators that anyone can use to see where we stand, look at how we compare with others, encourage progress, and then measure how we’re doing.
We will also be partnering with Louisiana Public Broadcasting in gubernatorial debates devoted to serious discussions about the issues that will define our future.
This is an important election for Louisiana. There are a lot of issues that can distract us, but there are more that we know we must focus on and commit to address.
Louisiana has many assets, but we also have things that hold us back. We should be a state that is growing, but instead we languish with population declines and a net outmigration that results in loss of talent. Our wealth of resources is the envy of many, but our economy doesn’t reflect all the advantages they give us. And, while we have made progress in education, we still lack the trained and educated workforce we need to thrive the way many of our peer states are doing.
Election time is our opportunity to talk about these things, suggest solutions, and ask candidates to tell us what they plan to do to move us forward. Despite whatever differences we might have, surely, we can all agree on the importance of that.