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2020 looked a lot different in January. A new and very independent Legislature was electing new leaders and preparing for its first regular session. The state’s finances were stable, there was a budget surplus and Louisiana’s economic outlook was optimistic. We are in a much different place today.

The art of legislating is like walking a tightrope. This year, circumstances will require even more from our legislators — a grand balancing act — one that must be accomplished amid an unfolding global pandemic and the resulting economic slowdowns and stoppages, without warning or time for preparation and practice. And without the guidance our state budget forecasts provide in more normal times.

RESET Louisiana’s Future is a targeted, nonpartisan effort led by The Committee of 100, the Council for A Better Louisiana, and the Public Affairs Research Council focused on four essential issues: education, state finance, criminal justice/public safety, and transportation/infrastructure.

All of these issues are critical to the safety and prosperity of the people of Louisiana, and RESET is committed to pursuing long-term solutions. As we try to restart the economy, RESET identified two immediate-term policy recommendations that are time-sensitive and speak to the grand balancing act:

1. Encourage businesses and workers rising to the challenge of economic recovery by establishing appropriate and temporary incentives and protections. The state should pursue strategically conceived support for job creation and the removal or delay of regulatory fees where practical with an emphasis on small business. Companies should be protected from liabilities for conditions and circumstances they did not create or control. Approved recovery incentives should be temporary, and the incentive costs should be limited in consideration of other priority obligations weighing on the revised state revenue outlook.

2. Pursue tax changes that improve the chances of recovery and are measured by their impact on state revenues and long-term reforms. Tax relief or incentive programs should be short term with a defined objective and should emphasize small businesses and imminently distressed employment sectors. Remove multiple duplicative tax regimes by unifying state and local sales tax collections, tax administration and tax bases under an independent, state-local commission to access increased sales tax revenues collected on remote transactions.

Our legislators can pass a fiscal year 2020-2021 budget by June 30 that reflects a grand balancing act accomplished under great stress. We should all acknowledge the challenges they face and the difficulty of their work, and cheer them to this result.

MICHAEL OLIVIER

CEO, Committee of 100

Baton Rouge

Our Views: With state finances is disarray, legislators avoid budget drama