A phase out of income taxes for Louisiana’s residents age 65-plus should be considered as the next administration tackles tax restructuring, lieutenant governor hopeful John Young said Monday.
Young said the change in tax policy could attract more retirees to the state. He said he is putting the idea on the table as Louisiana prepares to embark on a tax overhaul to put it on sounder financial footing.
“I’m not saying in a vacuum do it,” Young said. “We have to run the numbers. It may be revenue-neutral. We may get it back in sales taxes. We may get more money back.”
Besides tourism, the lieutenant governor also is involved in efforts to develop retirement communities in Louisiana.
Young, who is president of Jefferson Parish, broached the idea of an income tax phase-out as the four candidates for lieutenant governor appeared before the Press Club of Baton Rouge.
Also participating were former Plaquemines Parish President Billy Nungesser, Baton Rouge Mayor Kip Holden and state Sen. Elbert Guillory, of Opelousas. Nungesser, Young and Guillory are Republicans. Holden is a Democrat.
The primary election is Oct. 24. Early voting continues through Saturday.
Nungesser, Young and Holden said funding is the most pressing problem they will face as they become Louisiana’s tourism chief as the state faces a potential $1 billion budget shortfall.
Improving education is top on his agenda, Guillory said.
Nungesser said tourism funding must be protected and cuts that have hurt Louisiana’s assets, such as state parks, historic areas and museums, need to be restored. He said he would work on developing public-private partnerships to help and “sit down with the governor and show some of the wasteful (state) spending” that could be diverted to his agency.
Young said state funding — about $25 million annually — dedicated to tourism marketing must be protected from budget raids. He also said a special fund must be set up to help underwrite special events instead of the dollars taken from the marketing account. He said he would work to get the governor and legislators to understand that every $1 invested in tourism generates $38.
“It’s going to be funding,” Holden said, as the biggest headache. He predicted a budget problem of $800 million to $1 billion, prompting employee layoffs and reductions in services. He said everyone must work together on a solution.
All expressed interest in being involved in state economic development efforts.
Holden pointed to successes in expanding the local economy, such as bringing IBM here. He said the law doesn’t prevent the lieutenant governor from going out and recruiting industry to come to Louisiana
Nungesser said he grew industry in Plaquemines by getting major industry there to purchase goods and services from local companies. Young pointed to success in recruiting Smoothie King headquarters to Jefferson and the Indy car series.
Guillory said he wants to first help the governor “work through budget problems” before getting into economic development efforts.
Louisiana’s lieutenant governor is entitled to a security detail.
Young said he would not ask for a security detail. “We need all our troopers on the street,” he said.
“Unfortunately the reality of life you have to have security around you,” said Holden, who as mayor is accompanied by a security detail. “To walk out there and say ‘I am not going to have security’ is not the smartest thing to do ... Elected officials are primary targets.”
“I will have a small security force without question,” Guillory said. “If the governor goes down the lieutenant governor has to step up.”
Nungesser said he did not see the need for the lieutenant governor to have a full-time security detail.
Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne took on the role of secretary of the Culture Recreation and Tourism, eliminating a six-figure appointed job.
Young, Holden and Nungesser said they would not appoint a secretary. Guillory said he would keep the position of secretary.
Follow Marsha Shuler on Twitter @MarshaShulerCNB. For more coverage from the State Capitol, follow Louisiana politics at http://blogs.theadvocate.com/politicsblog/