The Louisiana Association of Business and Industry has released its scorecard from the 2015 legislative session, and the results are not pretty for many Louisiana lawmakers — even those who have traditionally sided with the business interest group.
Ninety-four of the 105 state legislators got F’s from LABI this session, while a single senator and 11 House members were given A’s. The average score in the Senate was 45 percent, and in the House it was 54 percent.
But even with such low scores, compared to years past, LABI has decided to change how it endorses candidates up for re-election to the Legislature, following a session that saw lawmakers turn to complicated tax schemes — often at the expense of tax breaks for businesses — to balance this year’s budget. Legislative elections will take place Oct. 24.
The LABI scorecard evaluated legislators on 28 bills in the House and 21 bills in the Senate. They covered a wide range of issues from transportation funding to efforts to curb union authority.
But the votes to scale back some industry tax breaks appear to have ruffled the most feathers at LABI.
In releasing the full scorecard on Tuesday, LABI President Stephen Waguespack chided lawmakers for their votes on tax legislation that was considered crucial to passing a budget that would pass muster with Gov. Bobby Jindal, who took an anti-tax pledge and is currently campaigning for president.
“Throughout the regular legislative session, many lawmakers repeatedly insisted their only choice to fund higher education and health care was to raise taxes,” Waguespack said. “We are disappointed that numerous legislators fell for this trap. The Legislature voted to prioritize an ever-growing government and increase taxes on small and large companies across the state.”
Waguespack, a former chief of staff to Jindal, had teased the scorecard on Monday in an email bluntly noting, “In short, the grades are in, and they are not very good.”
In a news release, LABI notes that the organization has, in the past, automatically endorsed re-election campaigns for legislators who voted with the group 75 percent or more.
“After this session, however, LABI’s political action committees — NORTHPAC, EASTPAC, SOUTHPAC and WESTPAC — are considering changing the endorsement rules, effective immediately, allowing PAC members to consider more than this one threshold in order to endorse candidates,” according to the news release.
Legislators who got the highest score in each chamber were state Rep. Ray Garafolo, R-Chalmette, and Sen. Elbert Guillory, R-Opelousas. Those who received the lowest LABI score in each chamber were Rep. Jack Montoucet, D-Crowley, and Sen. David Heitmeier, D-New Orleans.
The key players in drafting and passing the budget all received F grades from LABI, including Senate President John Alario, R-Westwego, and Senate Finance Chairman Jack Donahue, R-Mandeville, House Speaker Chuck Kleckley, R-Lake Charles, House Ways & Means Chairman Joel Robideaux, R-Lafayette, and House Appropriations Chairman Jim Fannin, R-Jonesboro.
To see the full report, visit www.labi.org/scorecard.