Publisher: Governor, it’s decision time on Louisiana’s ‘fiscal cliff’

After raising temporary taxes and given time to find solutions, two years later Louisiana is back to another showdown on the “fiscal cliff” with most of the same ideas. The governor wants to raise taxes again to keep from cutting the budget and services.  The fact is we still have too many government services (and universities), too many dependent on them and too many employees per capita. Gov. John Bel Edwards wants to continue this Louisiana tradition of populism—and the Louisiana House is standing in his way.

   The same dramatic threats to higher education and TOPS are being bandied about if taxes aren’t raised again.

Will our state be delivered from the “Spirit of Populism” made famous by governors Huey Long and Edwin Edwards—or will we continue with “the way we’ve always done it before,” with too many pigs sucking on the hind teat of state government?

  This battle on the edge of the cliff is one about the role and size of government and how to best spend limited tax dollars.  Priorities for the future.

Fact is, we are a small state with more than 20% of residents in poverty. This is not about whether we help those truly less fortunate. But, the problem clearly is we’re spending it on programs that aren’t working, evidenced by the fact our alarming poverty levels aren’t decreasing. This democratic populism has created generations of dependents—instead of independent workers, entrepreneurs and more taxpayers.  Of course, no one wants to take responsibility for that part of history.

  I think most would agree that, after Katrina, many of the poor families from the Ninth Ward in New Orleans ended up much better off after landing a home in Houston, San Diego, Birmingham or Atlanta—and didn’t come back. These states had more to offer them now and in the future. Who can blame them?

Our populist traditions have haunted us for too long and threaten our future and ability to compete. To all, it’s decision time.

 Last year, we had more than 27,000 people move out of Louisiana, creating a net loss for the first time in years. Many pursued a better opportunity. We must make sure those opportunities and jobs are here to stop this trend. I don’t believe that will happen if we raise taxes on business and top producers. They have options and can leave too- and then our problem gets worse.  And what would the Governor propose then—raise taxes again?

Our populist traditions have haunted us for too long and threaten our future and ability to compete. To all, it’s decision time.

Council on Aging saga

The Council on Aging is back in the news. While the mayor and Metro Council talk of new taxes, The Advocate reported that the budget the COA’s board approved for 2018 will top $10 million. That is triple—not double—the $3.2 million from 2017. The property tax will generate $8.2 million, plus they get $1.8 million from the state and $50,000 from a new rental car tax.

The board received an audit stating they had a deficit of $224,520, bigger than the year before. It also notes the Legislative Auditor’s report and the potential that state and federal laws were broken in the tax election.

I had a councilwoman stop me last week, saying, “The Metro Council didn’t approve the tax, the people did.”

I told her, the people approved the max millage, but the Metro Council can set any millage up to the max for collection. The Metro Council approved the max even without the COA having a budget or knowing how much revenue would be. I told her the budget would now be triple, not double, the previous year, to her surprise. I said they might not be able to spend it all. She assured me, “Oh they will.”

Yes, I’m sure they will—every penny.

Gautreaux vs. Trump 

Does our sheriff, Sid Gautreaux, know who are our president and attorney general are?

Speaking recently, Gautreaux said his one major concern is the parish prison. “The old part of the prison that houses about half of our population was built in the ’60s and it has all kinds of problems. The city-parish cannot fix the problems in there. The newer part was built in the ’80s. It’s not that it’s in such bad, deplorable shape, but it was built more like a dormitory than a prison and security. It’s a security risk there. It’s only a matter of time. I don’t know how it had not happened before now, that the federal government hadn’t come in, taken a look at that prison and shut it down,” said Gautreaux.

Does Gautreaux think this administration is going to come demand fancy new facilities for the prisoners? Is that what he is proposing, and is he going to ask us for more taxes to build them?

Why not focus on the judicial process and mental health issues that aren’t about brick and mortar and warehousing people, but could save us money?

Sheriff, you may have had a chance to get President Obama to “force you” to build a new prison and make us pay for it—but don’t count on using Trump to get one.

Watson’s misfire

Councilman Matt Watson had proposed an 8-mill dedicated property tax to boost pay for the police. He defended his tax increase to The Advocate saying, “There is no other way to find the money … there just isn’t.” I thought he was wrong.

At last week’s Metro Council meeting, Watson said he had heard from folks who opposed a new tax and pulled his proposal. (Wasn’t he in touch with his constituents before he threw out this idea?) He said, “This is not the time, and this is not the method.”

Right. Now he and the Metro Council are going to go back to the budget and work with the mayor to find the dollars for public safety. Good idea. Watson and his colleagues might discover, if it is the top priority, there is a way to find the money. Hard work and tough decisions, but that is the job they signed up for. Just do it the first time and quit misfiring on new tax proposals.

Oprah for president?

Her “campaign” is off to a rocky start. Singer Seal presents the award for the “Most Sanctimonious in Hollywood” to Oprah Winfrey for her Golden Globes speech on the #MeToo movement. He posted photos of her kissing Harvey Weinstein and said, “When you have been part of the problem for decades … but suddenly they all think you are the solution.” Hey Oprah, welcome to politics. 

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