At last, we find active in politics a group of tycoons who can both add and subtract — who understand that the chronic budget crises of the past few years demand a more efficient tax system as well as ways to cut budgets to make government more efficient.
The agenda of Blueprint Louisiana is that of the moderate middle rather than the extremes of left and right. For a candidate, that’s sometimes a perilous place to be, as both sides will take shots at you in an open primary system like Louisiana’s. But in terms of paying government’s bills and looking to the long term, Blueprint gives a series of reality checks to the political partisans, and might be the agenda that is ultimately adopted by a new governor and Legislature to be elected this fall.
While the proposal to expand Medicaid insurance coverage for the working poor got most of the attention, the Blueprint agenda also stakes out a claim to realism about the tax structure. That will raise taxes on tycoons, among others, because Louisiana hasn’t been paying its bills. But basically everyone will pay a little something; roads and bridges and rails need more revenue, for example, to make Louisiana competitive and that means, practically, raising the gasoline tax that most of us pay.
One of the most telling arguments of the Blueprint agenda comes at the end, where it praises some of Gov. Bobby Jindal’s changes in government but suggests a lot more needs to be done.
Among the perceived positives of Jindal’s tenure — although that judgment is not unanimous across the political spectrum — are in areas of workforce and economic development, K-12 education, managed care to control costs in Medicaid and coastal restoration.
“However, much more needs to be done to improve how Louisiana government is organized, how it works and how it is funded,” Blueprint’s agenda says. “Instead of the political expediency of indiscriminate budget cuts and financial shell games, we should drive all government agencies forward with real incentives to implement game-changing improvements that deliver new levels of government effectiveness and lower costs.”
There is something here for both left and right in the State Capitol. It ought to resonate with those on the right who were angered by Jindal’s political gamesmanship and unwillingness to tackle vested interests. But this also ought to resonate with the more liberal elements seeing a positive role for government in the state’s economic and social development.
Economic development is a process not only of salesmanship and tax breaks; Jindal has done well enough at that process. It’s also a matter of product development: Business wants and needs a better-educated workforce and a reliable transportation network, among other major drivers of competitiveness. Higher education and other important contributors to economic progress were sacrificed for Jindal’s politics over the last eight years.
Blueprint Louisiana seeks to strike a balance in what has been an increasingly polarized State Capitol. We’ll see how much it can sway the debate.
Lanny Keller is an editorial writer for The Advocate. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.