Since the days of Huey Long, Louisiana has been a state quite dependent on steady tax revenue to build and maintain its infrastructure, its public buildings, and to help propel the educational aspirations of its people. Under the severance taxes of the Kingfish, Louisiana got modern roads and public schools. LSU became a world-class university.
Those were the days. Today, Despite Gov. John Bel Edwards’ efforts to restore Louisiana’s commitment to revenue for public infrastructure and quality services for citizens, GOP budgetary tactics (in vogue since the Bobby Jindal years) continue to mire our budget in the bog. Our roads and bridges have been in pitiable disrepair for years. Our colleges and universities (including LSU) have faced the evisceration of their academic programs and the elimination of scores of faculty positions. How did we get here?
It is quite remarkable that a state so dependent on severance taxes for the past century should turn and cut the cord under Jindal for the past eight, and then be surprised to find our state starving to make ends meet. What do we do now? Even after eight years of cataclysmic cuts to the state's health care and education services, die-hard Jindalistas still desire to drive such services further into the ground. Indeed it is Jindal’s reckless ideology that’s to blame. For years, Jindal and our legislators have knelt joyously before the grimacing maw of Grover Norquist in service to the same brand of no-tax hyper-conservatism that has ransacked the solvency of states like Louisiana since the rise of the Tea Party.
If Louisiana wants to live successfully in the 21st century, then we need to decide for whose benefit do we budget our budget. The people? Or conservative intelligentsia that lead us to our current state of fiscal ruin? How do we fix it? Louisiana needs taxes — we needed them under Huey Long, and we need them now. Public services like education, healthcare, and infrastructure, though they cost oodles of money, help to elevate the well-being of all our people, and can help us again to be a successful, modern state. But we need to pass revenue measures to do it. We should continue to modernize Louisiana and help fulfill the aspirations of all Louisianans. What stops us? Why don't we just tax effectively enough to do what we need to do? Under the Kingfish, we did it before, and we achieved prosperity for much of the rest of the 20th Century. Can we reach prosperity in the 21st? Let’s reconnect with the successes of our past, and see how far we can go.