May 10, 2020
To the Members of the House Ways & Means Committee,
My name is Jan Moller, and I’m the executive director of the Louisiana Budget Project, a nonprofit policy research and advocacy organization focused on lifting up low- and moderate-income families.
I write today in opposition to House Concurrent Resolution 65, which suspends the state severance tax on oil and gas production. The Legislative Fiscal Office estimates that this would reduce available revenues by $514 million in the 2020-21 state fiscal year. That’s $514 million that won’t be available to educate our children, pay our police officers, or pay the doctors and hospitals that are caring for us during this pandemic.
For perspective: That’s almost 10 times what the state is spending on the Office of Public Health this year ($55.7 million). It’s more than we will spend on TOPS next year ($319.4 million) and equals about half of the state’s general-fund appropriation for all of higher education ($1.062 billion).
How much is $514 million? It’s 18% of the entire “discretionary” general fund appropriations in this year’s budget.
Unlike the federal government, Louisiana cannot spend more money than it brings in. Even without this resolution, that revenue will be severely diminished because of the economic downturn, making it harder to provide the basic necessities that our citizens need.
The coronavirus pandemic has disrupted our ability to work, pay rent and send our kids to school. As many Louisianans struggle to stay afloat, our focus should be on those who are in the greatest need, and on doing the greatest good. We will pull through this crisis by pulling together.
We ask that you use Louisiana’s limited resources to prioritize our hospitals, our low-income families, our students and the Main Street businesses that need your help – not to give a tax break to the oil & gas industry.