Leading into this year’s legislative session there’s just one simple message that lawmakers really need to hear. Fix it now.
For most of the last decade we have moved from budget crisis to budget crisis. Look at what’s happened:
- Higher education has been severely cut, tuition has skyrocketed, and TOPS is no longer fully funded.
- Health care delivery to the poor is threatened and the future of our medical schools remains uncertain.
- In the recent special session, the talk even turned to cutting public schools and corrections.
That’s why it’s time to fix it now.
Today we have the highest combined sales taxes in the country, tax exemptions almost exceed collections, our tax burden remains among the lowest in the country, but the Tax Foundation says our tax structure is unnecessarily complicated and ranks our business tax climate among the 10 worst.
On top of all that, most of the new revenues that were raised in the last two years to balance the budget are only temporary and disappear next year. That creates another fiscal crisis totaling about $1.5 billion.
What’s wrong with this picture? Everything.
The ratings agencies have noticed. Standard & Poor’s just downgraded our bond rating and Moody’s gave us a negative outlook. Why did they do that? Well, to quote Moody’s “continuing risks regarding a fiscal cliff looming in fiscal 2019 as tax increases roll off, uncertain revenue forecasts, implementation challenges and legislative reluctance to enact significant changes to the state’s revenue structure.”
What could be clearer than that? The time has come to address the fiscal problems that continue to hold us back.
The governor will release his fiscal plan soon and some lawmakers will likely follow suit. Many will no doubt see something negative in whatever plan is presented and that’s okay. It’s to be expected. But failing to work on a solution isn’t. Plans at the Legislature are a place to start the debate, they’re rarely the end of it. Will it be hard? Yes. Doing business deals is hard, negotiating things is hard, and so is fiscal reform.
But just because it’s hard it shouldn’t deter us. Louisiana is a good state that aspires to be a better state for all of our people. We can fix all of this, but we need to act, and the time to do so is now.