A sense of crisis would engulf a Legislature in a normal state with a situation like this: “The highest sales tax rates in the land, credit downgrades, critical infrastructure needs, and sliding tax climate rankings don’t provide the best optics to those looking at our state for investment.”
More than optics, Louisiana’s situation in real life is not that great. The quick-and-dirty description from the Council for a Better Louisiana should have, one would think, provoked a sense of urgency among legislators.
Instead, as CABL observes, there’s not much going in the way of comprehensive reform, either of the broken tax system or the pitiful level of investment in highways and other infrastructure needs.
Despite a near-total roadblock of reformers’ legislation in the Ways and Means Committee, where most tax-related bills must originate by law, some bills have been passed on to the full House. They have received a less than enthusiastic reception, so far.
Even if passed by the House, increasingly an ungainly operation in the hands of the GOP majority, they still must go to the Senate and then return for final agreement before the close of legislative business on June 8.
That’s a tight deadline by now. It is even tighter if the Senate might want to heavily amend — a polite way to say, “rewrite” — bills in a fashion that, on return to the House, would be voted on by the full body instead of the Ways and Means Committee. Legislation of a more constructive variety includes bills on road and bridge repair and measures on prison reforms, but all of them face the same gauntlet in a session nearing its end.
Bills are called legislative instruments, technically. There is no more clangorous a symphony than one created by clashing legislative instruments, in the last days of a session that was supposed to tackle the big issues CABL is worried about.
As we all should, in fact, be worried about.
The lack of urgency, even in a state in crisis, ought to worry not just business owners and community leaders, but ordinary consumers being hacked at the cash register with the new one-penny additional sales tax.
Gov. John Bel Edwards and his chief budget officer, Commissioner of Administration Jay Dardenne, are already talking matter-of-factly about a special session that might be necessary if this current session fumbles its opportunities.
Dardenne, a Republican, flatly rejected the House’s notions that the budget could be sharply reduced, during a panel discussion at the annual meeting of the Public Affairs Research Council.
Reform of the tax system may or may not result in new state revenues, but it might achieve some stability in the budget that is today akin to that of A.J. Liebling’s famous phrase about Louisiana, the northernmost of the banana republics.
Time is short, though. A special session appears almost inevitable, but the timing of that call from the governor might be tricky. After school holidays, maybe late August, is one speculation.
But a special session should not be needed, because there won’t be any new ideas or new courage or new money.
If state leaders cannot do their job and resolve the fiscal crisis in this session, Louisiana voters will be left to wonder why the people they elected to serve them should collect a paycheck.
The Louisiana House tax panel on Monday raised little money to address the state’s gaping bu…