Friday, 16 February 2018 17:56

Let the Olympic-sized Louisiana fiscal cliff debate begin

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olympic tug2So, let the olympic-sized Louisiana legislative fiscal debate match begin! 

On Monday, the Louisiana legislature convenes at the state Capitol for another special fiscal session to make an attempt to fix, what we might call, the always-existing revenue hole fiscal cliff. 

As would be expected, Republicans and fiscal conservatives want to cut. On the other side of the fence, Democrats and liberals want to raise revenues.  The voters on each respective political base are telling their legislators, “don’t come home if you raise taxes” or “don’t come home if you cut again and again and again”.

The annual problem, another roughly one-billion dollar hole needing to be plugged. The issue? The temporary fix of raising sales tax by one penny which the state approved two years ago is expiring as well are some tax exemptions and credits.  Thus, since the budget hole still exists, what’s a state going to do?

 The lines are draw and the starting whistle is about to blow.

Today, Rannah Gray, Jim Brown and I discussed this issue via a Facebook and Twitter Live video talk. Brown and Gray are on the opposite sides of the spectrum on this issue. For sure, while the legislators might talk the details to fix the problem, there is an overarching discussion being had, as i believe was personified today by Gray and Brown. . 

Rannah Gray is a public relations consultant and author.  She has worked for Brown as his Deputy Secretary of State and has been a top official for the Baton Rouge mayor. Jim Brown was an elected official for 28 years, including state Senator and Insurance Commissioner.

Want to watch the fiscal cliff scrimmage? Below is the video and a relevant transcript excerpt. This segment of the discussion starts at 2:42 on the video and ends at the 6:50 mark. Do watch.

And let the legislative games begin!


Or, you can watch the entire video.


BROWN: The state has to live within its means like you and I have to live within its means and the governor said that because we've lost certain revenue streams that certain things have gone down that we need a lot more money to continue state services. And I understand that point of view.  What he does not tell the viewers is that the state budget since John Bel Edwards took office is increased by about a billion and a half dollars.  Some of that is federal funds I understand but it's not like the state has had a huge economic setback where through some scam or some crisis have lost billions and billions of dollars.  It's just to keep the flow of state government going there are some requirements we don't have quite the income we have coming in.  And what we're going to talk about today and I want to take a little time with the viewers is to give you a whole list, where what we're saying is, okay we've got to keep a billion, a billion and a half dollars to kind of stay current.  But in our lives, Steve, if we have a huge financial crisis, we cut back we don't go out to dinner every night, we don't go to the movies.  Maybe we don't renew our LSU football tickets.  We find ways to streamline and cut back--and I'm going to advocate in our program today that although the financial situation has changed to some degree, not as much as some people are saying, that we've not seriously looked at ways to cut back and that's what I want to talk about today.  But basically, we need more money according to the governor to keep our current level of spending.  The question is should we have to keep that current level of spending and is it really that bad, is the hole really a billion to a billion half dollars. so that's..


SABLUDOWSKY: Okay fair enough, so let's turn over to Rannah, your thoughts-- do you agree with Jim, disagree or what?


GRAY: First of all, I think Jim the budget's not a billion, it's a mere 994 million out of whack, (laughs) with with a gap of only 994 million--but I agree with you, every year, the legislature and the governor should look for cuts, every year.  But we have had one thing-and this state functions on the price of oil and we have had one thing hit us pretty hard and that all prices tanked. I don't know that we'll ever reach that high that we've had in the past but especially with alternative energy growing in popularity throughout the country, but we we are inching back up and that is putting some some revenue back in there. So the governor did show where we can cut.  He laid that out and he's extended the deadline several times for the legislature to come back with their own plan and they're in talks now which both sides are saying they're a little making some progress on--but they've got a look at our tax system and we've got.  We've got the highest sales tax in America and so we look at companies, Jim's written about Amazon and people not taking us seriously-- why should people take us seriously when we're little Louisiana sitting down here with the highest sales tax in America.  And so they're gonna be looking at that and they're gonna be looking at whether or not to make that extra penny permanent is it gonna be a half cent,--where are they gonna end on that.  The governor has said, I understand, that he doesn't want it to be that five cents permanently but where will it end up being and as long as we have you know a very strong lobby by business and industry that always, every time local governments look at anything everybody pushes to sales tax and that's what everybody wants.  Well we've maxed out on sales taxes, we've done that, we've done that every time, every time we want to build roads and East Baton Rouge Parish we went up on the sales tax.  We've done that-- where do we look now, I'm all for the cuts, but how do we reform our tax system to have something fair that we can live with?


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