Our Views: Sticking with what isn’t working won’t fix Louisiana’s problems
For Louisiana, the cost of delay and bickering are growing every day that the Legislature fails to grapple with the state’s big problems.
We hope that people are not too worn out to demand change.
Three business-led reform organizations called the situation in the State Capitol “beyond disappointing.” We agree and wonder whether there is a path forward for a government that, as the groups pointed out, has been “grappling with budget issues that have consumed our state for most of the last ten years.”
A manifesto of sorts from the Council for a Better Louisiana, the Committee of 100 for Economic Development, and Blueprint Louisiana assesses the problems facing lawmakers and Gov. John Bel Edwards at the State Capitol.
The business groups don’t want to hear about the growing and hobbling level of party politics in the capitol. “Blame does not lie with one party or individual, and political rhetoric of this nature does nothing to benefit the public or solve our problems,” the groups said.
But partisanship, still less than in many political bodies, is now a day-to-day fact of life in decision-making in the State Capitol.
What comes first, the chicken or the egg? Yes, as the groups point out, there is a troubling level of mistrust among the leadership, but is that inspired by growing partisanship or a reaction to it? Louisiana’s leaders in politics are not dealing well with the new reality.
For the business groups, doubtless reflecting the thinking of community leaders across Louisiana, the chronic instability over the last decade has been hurting the state. The groups also note that the nation is taking notice.
Louisiana’s is not the only dysfunctional government in America, but it is more critically damaging to our people because state government performs more functions than the typical situation elsewhere.
“Recent publications, representing the full political spectrum, from ‘liberal’ to ‘conservative’ have written about Louisiana’s budgetary instability,” the business statement noted. “Standard & Poor’s bluntly stated that the legislative gridlock of the special session has emerged as a credit weakness for Louisiana with the potential to stunt our economic momentum. We can’t let that happen.”
Luckily, there is a set of plans for going forward.
“In 2015, the Tax Foundation published an extensive study of Louisiana’s finances. In 2016, the Legislature’s own Task Force on Structural Changes on Budget and Tax Policy issued its report with 28 recommendations for budgetary and tax reform,” the groups noted. “These proposals have been all but ignored.”
Agreed, but we would argue that the Edwards administration, admittedly with fits and starts sometimes, has been willing to at least sign into law some of the politically tough recommendations of the task forces and policy shops. It is the dysfunctional Legislature, particularly in the snarled House of Representatives, where the major share of the fault lies.
We hope that the statement of the leading business organizations causes some soul-searching in the State Capitol, particularly among the House leaders. Sticking with what isn’t working is not a blueprint for anything good.