The third special session of 2018 is about to begin. One thing that can be said is that lawmakers have been here before and they know the issues. Our hope is that this time they will find compromise. Toward that end CABL supports renewal of one-half-cent of the expiring state sales tax in the general form that it was presented in HB 12 during the second special session. We believe the revenues are important to help address a number of state needs and we are particularly concerned about providing much-needed stability to higher education.
CABL has been actively involved in issues involving fiscal reform for many years. We served on the HCR 11 Task Force and continue to believe the recommendations made by that group offer Louisiana a solid framework for finding comprehensive, long-term solutions to our tax structure.
We remain hopeful that in the future we can enact some of those policies and make Louisiana what it should be – a state that continues to enjoy a relatively-low tax burden, but also boasts a highly-favorable business climate. It seems clear, however, that before we have the opportunity to do that we must first resolve our budget issues.
As part of that we have concerns about any further cuts to higher education. Though much can be said, a couple of points are significant:
- Louisiana’s prolonged cuts to higher education over the last decade represent the second highest disinvestment in colleges and universities in the nation.
- As a result of that, Louisiana now ranks last in our region in terms of resources available per student.
We have cut our schools and we have cut our students. Now, as we decide how much we are going to cut our taxes, we urge our lawmakers to arrive at a level that makes no further reductions to higher education. That would hurt our state, threaten our workforce, and provide a disservice to our citizens.
Though we have concerns with some aspects of the policy, CABL does support renewing one-half cent of the current sales tax. We do not believe Louisiana should reduce current taxes to such a degree that it reduces our support to higher education and the students who represent our future.
We also recognize there are several critical services facing significant cuts that should not see major reductions – the SNAP program, K-12 education, and prisoner housing among them. CABL also remains strongly supportive of TOPS. To protect these areas we urge our legislators to maintain the resources needed to prevent Louisiana from moving in a direction we do not need to go.
We realize the recent special sessions have been difficult. They have at times been dominated by politics and partisanship, but we hope this one will focus on policy and people. Areas of the budget that are currently not funded contain significant items that are important to most, if not all, of our citizens.
It’s worth noting that in the last special session an overwhelming majority of members in both chambers supported retaining a half-penny of the sales tax, suggesting a meaningful compromise should be within reach. We hope so. That’s how difficult issues are resolved and that’s what it will take to keep our state moving forward.