Welcome to 2018! January is always an exciting time for me. It provides us with an opportunity to reflect, plan, and re-set our expectations and goals! This year, as in years past, we have our work cut out for us. But I, like you, am re-charged and ready for the work that lies ahead.
No doubt, over the last several weeks and months you have read and heard about the steep “Fiscal Cliff” awaiting the State of Louisiana. This nearly $1 billion “cliff” is the result of a structural budget problem: we simply do not generate enough revenue to continue the level of services that we have provided over the last decade. This gap in needs and resources is nothing new; it has been steadily growing since the 2007 repeal of a voter approved plan which shifted our system from being heavily regressive to progressive by lowering the state sales tax and increasing state income taxes. Since then, our default has been deficit instead of stability, with 15 mid-year budget cuts in half as many years.
Some say the “cliff” isn’t real, but it is. Nearly two years ago, House leadership proposed a temporary one cent increase in the sales tax to act as a revenue bridge while we worked on a plan for permanent, structural tax and revenue reform. Unfortunately, they haven’t proposed or seriously entertained any plans for reform since.
Despite a host of recommendations from the bipartisan Task Force on Structural Changes in Budget and Tax Policy and legislation that I offered to enact these expert recommendations.
Despite steadily being downgraded by credit agencies because of our overly complicated tax system and one of the highest regressive sales taxes in the country.
Despite imperiling our hospitals and our education system and threatening the future of TOPS.
Despite 18 months of meetings and attempted negotiations between legislators.
Despite a Governor who has been waiting at the table, ready to work with them.
Despite a quickly approaching and unforgiving deadline.
Though we have had the same discussions and debates through 6 sessions since January of 2016, I remain optimistic. Call me foolish, but deep down, I believe that my colleagues want to work for you as much as I do. I believe they know they have a job to do and they want to do it before continued inaction further jeopardizes the future of our state. I KNOW that any rational legislator does not want to make $1 Billion in cuts that will deeply affect our children, our elderly, and our most vulnerable across all socioeconomic levels. I KNOW they understand that it is not possible to implement $1 Billion in cuts to solve our structural crisis. I am confident they can find a way forward.
At some point in the near future, we will be once again be called upon to come together to work for the people of Louisiana. Please continue to push me and all legislators to work as hard as the people of Louisiana do. Hold us all accountable, remind us that the future is now, and that the time for words has passed. This is a time for solutions, action and serious leadership, and I remain honored to work for you!