A former state senator, Troy Hebert, recently suggested that two numbers ought to always be in the next governor’s mind: 53 and 20.
Those are the majorities in House and Senate, and his larger point was that the support of the Legislature is critical to anything a new governor wants to do in office.
We think that it behooves the runoff candidates for governor, who are obviously obsessed right now with turnout and poll numbers, to think about two other numbers: 70 and 26.
Because it is with 70 votes in the House and 26 votes in the Senate that one achieves a two-thirds majority, vital to passing new taxes and, perhaps, depending on a legal challenge to some actions of the 2015 Legislature, even ending tax breaks previously granted.
It is those two-thirds votes that are more elusive both mathematically and politically.
And if there are big numbers that ought to worry the lawmakers and the new governor, it is the massive shortfalls in the budget, both in the current year and in the new budget that must be crafted by a new administration in early 2016.
It is the problem that candidates can easily identify and decry but have been unwilling to be as specific about what they’re going to do about shortfalls of $1 billion or more.
Most of the legislators seeking re-election have been returned to office, so they are not newbies. But they and the governor’s candidates can benefit from a major report on Louisiana’s out-of-date tax system.
The Committee of 100 for Economic Development, a business group, commissioned experts from the nonpartisan Tax Foundation and drew in Louisiana experts to talk about ways to fix the tax system.
It’s a reasonable list of options for streamlining tax collection and generating money for state government in an economically responsible way. For conservatives, it has the benefit of showing how a broadened tax base in the income tax, for example, could allow a significant cut in the tax rate.
“We must recognize that there are no easy or quick fixes,” Committee of 100 Chairman Tom Clark said. “Success will require a comprehensive review and correction of the causes of our structural budget deficit problems and not simply reducing spending or increasing taxes.”
Some of the proposals might require changes in the bloated, overwritten Louisiana Constitution, where we’ve added tax breaks or basic provisions that are less flexible than in ordinary law. That means that the significant numbers are often going to be 70 and 26, because the first big hurdle to constitutional changes is a two-thirds vote of House and Senate.
Then, the new governor and lawmakers have to sell the changes to a vote of the people.
Such big changes are going to be challenging in the State Capitol. But they don’t get rolling without a credible set of options priced out for consideration. The Committee of 100 has given a solid start to real changes in the tax system.