At the beginning of June, even if it discomfited out-of-touch elites, Louisianans received great news about energy.
In the state House of Representatives, lawmakers rejected bills to hike gasoline taxes, which supporters had touted as necessary to address a roughly $12 billion backlog in roads needs. Last year, only about $85 million of state dollars in the Transportation Trust Fund went toward those kinds of projects. But if the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development and legislators really cared about state priorities, they would make local governments and users of state-funded transportation infrastructure serving local areas pay for such things as airports, seaports, bridges, mass transit, railroad crossing, cutting grass, and litter abatement. Right now, the state bears those costs. That reform could free up $130 million more a year for state roads.
But being more efficient with tax dollars seemed far from the minds of some who caterwauled in the wake of the bills’ demises. Republican State Rep. Steve Carter, sponsor of one such bill, whose southeast Baton Rouge district likely would have received a disproportionate amount of new tax dollars, blamed opposition by GOP party leaders and special interests. Those critics rallied state taxpayers who want clearer spending priorities before raising taxes.
State DOTD Secretary Shawn Wilson rejects redirecting fund dollars in favor of higher taxes — no doubt because his boss, Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards, likes to grow government whenever possible. After the proposed tax hike was defeated, Wilson expressed his disappointment in a Tweet, threatening to reject funding requests from outspoken House opponents’ districts. He later claimed he meant that without the increase they scuttled, a lack of money would leave him no choice — even though he could help advance reforms that would make more funds available.
Yet the most laughable reaction came from frustrated lobbyist Ken Naquin, head honcho of the Louisiana Association of General Contractors, whose members would have enjoyed hundreds of millions of dollars in additional revenues had the tax boost succeeded. In a letter perhaps mainly designed to protect his job, he blasted the House GOP leadership rather than admit he couldn't counter the anti-tax argument.
Meanwhile, in Washington, Republican President Donald Trump withdrew his predecessor’s pledge to follow the Paris Climate Accord. The negotiated framework asked participating nations to set targets for carbon reduction. While many states established commitments that they appear on track to attain, before Trump the U.S. chose a steeper standard that would have cost the economy 400,000 jobs and $2.5 trillion over the next decade by shifting energy usage away from fossil fuels.
That explains why most of the world’s developed economies begged for U.S. participation. Our reliance on abundant oil and gas makes our energy costs much lower and their producers less competitive. U.S. adherence to the accords leveled the playing field. Meanwhile, less developed countries didn’t object to their limitations because the agreement mandates that developed states give them $100 billion annually, along with technology to move away from carbon production.
After Trump’s exit announcement, Democratic New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu defiantly argued that cities should pursue a “low-carbon economy” even though Louisiana’s economy, with its large energy component, would suffer disproportionately. Fortunately, Trump, not Landrieu, is president.