FRONT PAGE CONTRIBUTOR
To fix a broken Louisiana
It’s not often that I write from a state politics perspective, largely because we aren’t a great bastion of political cleanliness and sometimes it’s a wee bit embarrassing. But, recently, I have to give credit to Governor Bobby Jindal for his ideas and statements regarding not only the future of the state, but the nation, as well.
It is no secret that I’ve disagreed with the governor on some things, particularly when it comes to his education reform, which I think hurts a lot more teachers than it helps. But I’ll touch on fixing that at some later date.
Recently, Jindal announced his intention to get rid of state income taxes in Louisiana and go to a sales tax-based plan. It’s a plan I fully endorse, but several conservatives, like statewide-syndicated talk show host Moon Griffon, say they don’t trust it. “We don’t know the whole plan,” Griffon said in a recent show. Notably, Louisiana columnist C. B. Forgotson said it was “half a plan.”
It’s a good plan, and those who oppose it do so because they oppose Jindal on a regular basis. One of the biggest complaints is that it would increase revenue to the state of Louisiana. And, that is a bit of a concern when the state has an inflated budget. But the spending problems are actually not all Jindal’s fault. The tax change, frankly, is a necessary change. One of three that should be implemented to fix the state.
The increase in revenue is the first step. The studies show it would increase revenue. Yes, sales taxes go up, but everyone is paying the same percentage, which is what a lot of the tax discussion in recent months has been about. And, you will not be paying anything to the government until after you have provided the vitals for your family – food, home, clothes, etc.
By doing that, we get to the second step, which is getting closer to fully funding the state. As a state, we cannot shrink the size of our government right away. And, Jindal is getting a lot of criticism for recent cuts to healthcare which will affect social workers and their cases, as well as HIV-positive patients. If there is more revenue, we won’t have to make those cuts. Step two is vital because we can then move on safely to step three.
Step three is perhaps the hardest step for the state to take, but it is a necessary one. The reason the state’s budget is so inflated is because there are so many things in its constitution it has to pay for. In fact, the only two things not protected in the state’s constitution are healthcare and high education. Seems a bit wrong, does it not? To fix this, we have to do something incredibly difficult, something we as a state did decades ago but nullified with legislative actions – we have to call a constitutional convention.
For a few years, we’ve had election cycles where multiple amendments to the state constitution (sometimes seven or more at a time!) have been on the ballot. In multiple elections within the same year. This is absurd and needs to stop. There is no reason why we should be changing so many things in the state’s constitution. Instead, we as a state must call together a convention to write a new document that protects what truly deserves to be protected and leave everything else as accessible to cut as education and healthcare.
The new constitution would have to be both strict and a little flexible. It needs to be fashioned more like the U.S. Constitution. It needs to be able to meets the needs of the state, but not be abused by state officials. And, above all else, it should be the type of document you shouldn’t need to add amendments to.
It’s a tall order, but I do believe that Jindal and the other state officials would be able to get the state’s problems fixed.
See this post and others of mine here. Follow me on Twitter: @joec_esquire