At best, the report issued by the Resilient Louisiana Commission as a policy roadmap for the state’s future is uneven. At worst, it rehashes too many failed shibboleths and injects trendy but useless notions designed to grow government and its power at the people’s expense.
The end product comes after six months of study launched as the Wuhan coronavirus pandemic entered its most virulent stage by Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards at taxpayer expense. It intends to lead Louisiana out of the virus wilderness and improve economic development beyond that, but with the majority of members picked by Edwards and steered by his government appointees, its conclusions point throughout to indulgence in big government.
It calls for 16 clearly identified new government programs and/or significant boosts in spending on existing ones, with perhaps many more tucked away in vague wording. At three points, it exhorts the federal government to shovel more money at the state. And on three occasions it recommends tying into conclusions by other Edwards-commissioned panels that separately advance the growth of government.
Of course, with one exception (other than nebulous requests for federal dollars to rain upon the state or grasps at public/private partnerships), the effort makes no mention from where the money will come to finance all of expansion. That singleton, raising (“temporarily”) the retail motor fuels tax, policy-makers wisely have rejected often (even as special interests try to revive the idea that would transfer taxpayer resources into their pockets) as eliminating misallocation of existing funds could leave more left over for road building and upkeep without hiking taxes.
Complementing this, the document asks that policy-makers bust its net taxpayer-supported debt ceiling for its capital items. As for the remainder, naturally enough tax hikes would cover it, with the document referring to the model laid down in the 2017 report Louisiana’s Opportunity: Comprehensive Solutions for a Sustainable Tax and Spending Structure that supports collecting more net revenue from expanding coverage of sales taxes, raising taxes on the middle class and above, and on corporations. (It also gives a generalized echo of this previous report’s idea of broadening the tax base and getting rid of unproductive exemptions to allow for lower rates, but does not commit to tax relief or at least tax neutrality.)
You can see which way it all heads right out of the gate. The report divides into short- and long-term recommendations, with the former portion providing strategy explicitly to address the pandemic. This largely tries to justify the heavy-handed approach utilized by Edwards then without much loosening of the grip since. Such policy has resulted, until recently, in Louisiana having the most per capita cases and still among the most per capita deaths (fifth) from the virus among the states, and continues to ignore science by failing to incorporate the vast knowledge base built concerning the virus.
That aside, the very first part of the latter portion immediately discusses “equity” and “inclusion” (equating the former with “social justice” and more) that proffers an assumption of a society somehow rigged against certain people. Therefore, policy must “build consistency and produce more equitable outcomes,” “[a]ccount for social equity concerns,” and “examine housing, homelessness, gender and LGBTQ-related issues.”
“Inclusion” also means foisting destructive economic policies upon the very people these allegedly would aid. Thus, the document recycles the noxious notions of “living wages either by enhancing the state’s Earned Income Tax Credit or by establishing a minimum wage higher than the federal threshold.”
The report then proceeds with some less odious recommendations and even a few laudable grains of wheat hidden among the chaff, such as tax simplification both in the code and in its collection. But perhaps it shows its hand most clearly as begging for big government running rampantly in its deceptively brief section on climate change. The Earth’s climate is changing, and likely in the direction long term of warming, as the report acknowledges. However, no scientific evidence indicates that human activities significantly contributes to this, yet the report buys into the myth that it does through its expressed handoff to Edwards’ recently-activated Climate Initiatives Task Force. That group is charged to come up with ways to drop emissions of gases that absorb infrared radiation and trap heat in the atmosphere to 26 percent reduction by 2025, then to achieve a 40 to 50 percent reduction by 2030, ending with the goal of net-zero emissions by 2050; in other words, to commit the state to a ruinously expensive proposition without any reliable science to back it up.
In all, the report offered nothing new on big issues, spewed some nonsense, and wasted taxpayer resources in the process. Into the dustbin it should go.
Jeff Sadow is an associate professor of political science at Louisiana State University Shreveport. He has studied and written about Louisiana politics for more than a quarter of a century, and authors the blogs Louisiana Legislature Log and the award-winning Between the Lines. He can be reached at jeffsadowcolumn-HannaPub@yahoo.com.