By Rep. Tim Burns
The Good: Then vs. Now
The last time that the legislature had such an embarassment of riches, it was at the height of the oil boom and Edwin Edwards was Governor. The spending bandwagon was in full throttle and there were few fiscal conservatives in sight. If someone had even suggested fiscal restraint, they would have gotten laughed out of the Capitol.
Today, fiscal conservatives were able to totally derail an ill-conceived special session in December and even force some sanity into the spending madness this past session. The administration's spending bonanza was defeated three separate times on the House floor and the sale of the tobacco settlement (for still even more money) was forced to be jettisoned.
In addition, the legislature passed more tax breaks than the administration wanted, including a substantial repeal of Stelly (reinstating the excess itemized deductions), the repeal of the gift tax, 7% tax credit for insurance premiums, and a private school tuition deduction of up to $5,000. However, it still remains to be seen how much tax relief survives the veto pen.
Fiscal conservatives are on the rise and the upcoming elections could mark an historic shift away from Louisiana's entitlement mentality.
The Bad: Spending Everything that Wasn't Nailed Down
Although an overwhelming number of voters wanted a fiscally prudent approach, the administration did what it wanted and spent every penny and then some. Louisiana has the fourth highest spending per capita in the nation and now has the highest debt per capita at any time in its history. Despite pleas to the contrary, the "Old Guard" in the legislature, many of them Edwin Edwards holdovers, just could not resist the urge to spend. Their fiscal insanity could cripple the economy in the years to come. And of course spending was based on politics rather than policy and progressive ideas such as transferring vehicle sales taxes into a construction fund for the state's infrastructure were shot down because, of course, that would leave less money to spend.