Jan. 26: Edwards v. Harris

Jan. 26: Edwards v. Harris

Gov. John Bel Edwards and his administration set up a website to catalogue letters and commentary from citizens and organizations opposed to Rep. Lance Harris’ proposed budget cuts.

Gov. John Bel Edwards and his administration set up a website to catalogue letters and commentary from citizens and organizations opposed to Rep. Lance Harris’ proposed budget cuts. Hospitals, health centers, educators, senior citizen organizations, even Jefferson Parish Sheriff Newell Normand have weighed in, saying the cuts would be ill-advised and that lawmakers should tap the state’s Rainy Day Fund as an alternative. The governor’s full response to Rep. Harris is available on his website.


“In the year since I’ve taken office, this is the first alternative plan that has been proposed,” said Gov. Edwards. “This plan is proof that it is not only necessary for a special session but use of the Rainy Day Fund is essential. Combining the two is, by far, the most responsible approach until the legislature convenes in April to reform our tax code. I am looking forward to working with the legislature in the coming weeks, but it’s clear that no plan will be without pain to Louisiana’s families. Ultimately, it’s up to all of us to lessen the burden the cuts will have.”


Task force to release final report

The Task Force on Structural Changes in Budget and Tax Policy convenes today to release their final report. They released their recommendations in a shorter missive last November. The Advocate’s Tyler Bridges reports that even though legislators created the task force, they’re not yet embracing its recommendations.


The task force report shows that legislators – especially during the eight years during the administration of Gov. Bobby Jindal – created more and more tax breaks for high-income individuals and corporations. The task force is now calling on lawmakers to reverse course and eliminate many of the tax exemptions and exclusions. Doing this in turn would allow lawmakers to reduce tax rates. “But the question now, given the imbalance between state expenditures and projected tax receipts, is whether we choose to sustain or increase high rates on taxes or eliminate some of the exemptions, deductions, and credits,” reads the draft report, which was obtained by The Advocate.

How to get to surplus

Amid year after year of budget shortfalls, a surplus seems the furthest thing from reality here in Louisiana. But four states are projected to have a budget surplus in 2017: Georgia, Idaho, Utah, and California. These states made tough decisions on taxing corporations and the most wealthy, and are thriving as a result. Elaine Povich of The Pew Charitable Trusts has more on the situation in Georgia:


But Georgia also resisted cutting taxes in recent years, while modestly projecting revenue and diverting excess amounts into the state’s rainy day fund, said Wesley Tharpe, research director at the progressive Georgia Budget and Policy Institute. As a result, Republican Gov. Nathan Deal is proposing a record $25 billion budget for next year that is based on projected revenue growth of 3.6 percent. The budget calls for increases in spending for law enforcement personnel and educators, a couple of big-ticket infrastructure projects — and no tax increases. “Even though no one enjoys paying taxes, the state does need a certain amount of revenue to meet the challenges” of education and transportation, Tharpe said.

Will Louisiana benefit from federal infrastructure package?

If the Trump administration and Congress take action to rebuild crumbling public infrastructure, Louisiana could reap some of the benefits. Though only a first draft, three Louisiana-based projects are on an initial list of proposals. The Advocate’s Mark Ballard and Will Sentell share a quick rundown:


Louisiana would be in line for 1,300 jobs and about $2 billion worth of work if Congress approves the three projects on a list compiled by President Donald Trump’s team to upgrade the nation’s roads, highways and ports. The list of about 50 infrastructure projects, obtained Tuesday by McClatchy News Service, includes $125 million for refurbishing the Causeway, $1 billion for dredging the Mississippi River and $983 million for rebuilding a lock on the inner harbor in New Orleans. It doesn’t include 10 other projects sought by Gov. John Bel Edwards, including widening interstate highways and completion of the Comite River Diversion Canal.

Number of the Day

$60,000– high end daily price tag of a special legislative session. (Source: Louisiana House of Representatives clerk via The Associated Press)