Past the Fourth of July, the election season in Louisiana starts to beckon.
The people of Louisiana need to make this one count.
It is hardly a surprise that before the October primary election, politicians in search of votes will say that they are for better education, health care, roads. The problem with pronouncements like these is that they are results, not plans. They commit the candidates to nothing but good intentions. And the candidates like it that way.
The people must demand plans.
The good news is that some of the best policy shops in the state have combined to produce a set of plans against which the rosy scenarios of the political speeches can be compared.
The set of reforms and policy agendas was developed in a collaboration of the Public Affairs Research Council, the Council for a Better Louisiana, and the Committee of 100 for Economic Development.
They are predominantly business-led groups, but they share many kinds of expertise in analyzing the complex issues debated — or, all too often, ignored — in the State Capitol.
The reading that politicians don’t want you to see is on a website, reset-louisiana.com.
The four “reset buttons” that the plans address are education, state finances, infrastructure and public safety. Each button leads to a set of more specific policies, briefed out in one-pagers and with links to more detailed prescriptions in the areas identified by the reform groups.
Not everybody is going to agree about the prescriptions. There’s a debate in the Capitol nearly every year not over whether we need a new Louisiana Constitution, but whether the process of getting a responsible document is viable in a polarized political environment.
Among other proposals backed by the good-government groups in recent years, legislators have proved adept in burying tax reform ideas to overhaul the extremely inefficient and antiquated revenue system of state government.
The problems getting those bills passed show that if some of the reset buttons are easy to push on a website, they are a lot harder to push on legislators' desks when the time comes for tough votes.
The studies are not purely forward-looking: Some of the reset buttons will call attention to failings of incumbents seeking reelection.
A policy statement on retirement and pension reforms, vitally needed to improve state finances, includes a reference to a 2018 bill to create a new retirement plan for state employees; it was backed by groups like PAR and CABL but reportedly derailed by opposition from Gov. John Bel Edwards.
Louisiana needs a reset button on a lot of fronts. Whether the politicians are comfortable with it or not, we hope the voters will push the candidates to respond with specifics, not gauzy promises.