Times-Picayune, New Orleans, on legislative session lacked big ideas, true reform:

June 8

Times-Picayune, New Orleans, on legislative session lacked big ideas, true reform:

Some state legislators seem almost giddy over the way this spring’s session turned out. House Speaker Chuck Kleckley of Lake Charles declared the session one of the most successful in his eight years in the Legislature and said the independence shown by lawmakers this year was unprecedented.

Hold on, now.

Legislators bucked Gov. Bobby Jindal on the budget and hammered out a compromise more to their liking that relies less on one-time revenue for ongoing expenses. And lawmakers forced the governor to play defense much of the session, which is unusual.

But, as the Council for a Better Louisiana noted in its post-session analysis Thursday, “at the end of the day, not a lot has changed.”

There were no sweeping reforms, no big ideas turned into policy, no legislative initiatives that will dramatically improve the lives of Louisianians.

Although Sens. Karen Carter Peterson and Ben Nevers, among others, tried mightily to get lawmakers to accept the federal expansion of Medicaid, that didn’t happen. The rejection of the extra $15.8 billion in health care money will be the ongoing shame of this session.

As it is, this session’s budget negotiations whittled down the one-time revenues in the new budget to $80 million, which House Appropriations Committee Chairman Jim Fannin said is among the lowest amounts in his experience. That is an achievement. In addition, the fiscal hawks got measures passed that should provide more transparency on future budgets and require a more thorough review of revenues.

But CABL and the Public Affairs Research Council caution that excitement over the budget should be tempered. ...

Louisiana’s corporate franchise tax ought to be eliminated. PAR says the tax is a deterrent to capital investments and a disincentive to companies looking at Louisiana as a possible location for their headquarters.

A concerted effort to reduce the state’s 468 tax exemptions also is needed. Despite a yearlong review by the Legislature’s Revenue Study Commission leading up to this session, though, little progress was made.

Lawmakers put a 2018 sunset date on solar tax credits, which is a smart move. The state’s Enterprise Zone and alternative fuels tax credit programs were revised and, according to PAR’s analysis, should be more efficient. But legislators created new tax credits that the Legislative Fiscal Office says will decrease state revenues — and future budgets.

They also failed to create a centralized sales tax collection system, a change that would make it easier for businesses to operate in Louisiana.

When next year’s legislative session arrives, lawmakers and Gov. Jindal should focus on solutions to those problems. That would truly be a session worth celebrating.

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