JR Ball: The great Louisiana budget divide

    Gov. John Bel Edwards is promising to get serious about reforming Louisiana’s antiquated tax code, but that’s something Louisianans have heard before, Business Report Executive Editor JR Ball says.

    “Fiscal conservatives in the state House—and LABI—be damned, the time has come, says our governor, to bravely go where no man has gone before and bring fiscal order to Louisiana’s house,” Ball writes in his latest column. “Jumping from one billion-dollar fiscal cliff to the next may be fun for thrill-seeking millennials but it’s no way to run a state government.”

    That’s what Louisiana has been doing ever since former Gov. Bobby Jindal was in office, he writes.

    So with Louisiana facing yet another $1 million-plus shortfall in next year’s operating budget, Edwards convened a meeting on Aug. 8 with 21 business leaders from around the state to discuss tax reform. The Democratic governor’s goal is to involve in the process those who actually do business in the state and pay taxes. He’s also looking for allies who will help him accomplish his goals and curtail LABI’s legislative influence.

    Additional meetings are scheduled with the Council for a Better Louisiana, Together Louisiana and the C-level executive dominated Committee of 100, which for several years has been preaching reform and publishing proposals.

    “It all sounds perfectly giddy, but let’s get real,” Ball writes. “Yes, there’s universal agreement on the theory of simplifying a tax code so convoluted that only the wonkiest of accountants could love, but once the conversation turns to actually getting it done it’s like watching a Real Housewives episode.”

    For example, several business leaders in attendance at the governor’s meeting—which has been described as cordial—left shaking their heads.

    “The governor may have been talking reform, but what some in the room heard was Edwards’ desire for more revenue to fuel his budget desires,” Ball writes. “That’s not a good starting point. It gets worse once you factor in there’s a cabal of cash-rich business tycoons who’ve made it their mission to get Edwards out of office after one term. Does anyone think those folks, and their well-financed PACs, have any desire to hand the governor such a monumental win?”

    Read the full column. Send your comments to editors@businessreport.com.

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