STATE SPENDING BALLOONS: BUT WHAT ABOUT OUR MIDDLE CLASS?
By: Rep. Tim Burns, District 89
PLIGHT OF THE MIDDLE CLASS
The plight of Louisiana’s middle class was poignantly illustrated in an article which recently appeared in the Times Picayune entitled “Broken Dreams.” The byline of the article stated that many residents in the post-Katrina era are finding themselves faced with higher expenses and struggling to simply make ends meet. The article profiled Demetrious and Sondra Dillon, a working couple and parents trying to rebuild their lives after Katrina. Like so many who evacuated after the 2005 hurricanes, they were forced to live off of their savings, their credit cards and their cash at hand. Many also lost their jobs in addition to their houses. The Dillon’s tale is repeated over and over throughout Southeast Louisiana as residents struggle to rebuild their careers, their families and their lives.
Couples such as the Dillons are the fabric of our society, hard-working, taxpaying citizens. Yet they seem often ignored by state government. The 2007-2008 budget recently unveiled by the administration contains spending of nearly $30 billion dollars, which puts Louisiana 3rd in the nation in terms of per capita spending according to the latest figures by the Tax Foundation.
Rather than spend all of the surplus, why not return some of it to the people who need it most, namely the taxpaying citizens, who are trying to get back on their feet and are burdened with higher insurance payments. Many of my constituents told me that they paid more state income tax when they filed their return than federal income tax. When our citizens are paying more state income tax on tax filing day then federal income tax, then there is definitely a problem. The 2002 Stelly plan, which I vigorously opposed as a citizen activist, (I was not yet elected to the legislature) was inaccurately sold to the voters as an equitable swap in income taxes for sales taxes. Unfortunately, it has turned out to be is a boondoggle for the state and a burden for the middle class, resulting in significantly higher tax payments. I will be filing several bills in the upcoming legislative session to repeal all or part of Stelly.
Last year I was successful in passing legislation giving citizens an extra year to file their damage claims from hurricanes. This year I want to help further reform Louisiana’s insurance laws to make coverage more affordable for residents. Ideally, a program could be underwritten by the federal government (like federal flood insurance), which would provide affordable wind and hail coverage for our citizens. Although several bills are pending in Congress, the state needs to act also. I intend to file legislation giving tax credits for making one's home more storm proof and requiring insurer discounts for any hazard mitigation provisions. I would also favor making the insurance industry more competitive so that we are not held hostage by a few big insurers. Finally, I will continue to promote and file legislation to prohibit insurance companies from taking advantage of ordinary citizens.