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Session represents another missed opportunity

As the 2007 regular session of the Louisiana Legislature comes to a close, one gets a sick feeling that an opportunity of historical significance was missed by it, one that could have accelerated the state away from policy that for decades has retarded the state’s growth and quality of life. Still, there is a silver lining.

Simply put, Louisiana’s state government is too big and intrusive which dampens economic growth as well as personal freedom in the process. Ultimately, the people must blame themselves to some degree because we in aggregate continue to put economic illiterates such as Gov. Kathleen Blanco and a Democrat majority into office. As if we needed one more example of this, take Blanco’s comment yesterday: “It's important for the public to know that a tax break is like the Legislature's spending money, only it disappears.”

Only an economic ignoramus or willingly deceitful politician would make a statement so at odds with economic theory. Has Blanco never heard of the Grace Report, which shows government wastes a third of the money coming into it? Or of the Laffer Curve, which demonstrates that the more money kept in the private sector, to a certain point (and with Louisiana’s high tax per capita collection rate, it’s definitely on the suboptimized part of the curve) the greater government revenues will be through economic growth?

I’ll lay it out very simply so maybe even Blanco can get it through her head, finally: tax breaks create wealth that (generally, unless there is a low-tax environment to begin with) does not “disappear” but instead strengthens the economy which in turn creates a more stable financial footing for government. Spending by government even on necessary things (like needed infrastructure) is where about a third of the people’s money disappears in waste.

Unfortunately, Blanco and the Democrat-controlled Legislature were in charge and so the most tax relief that anybody looks to be getting will be about half of taxpayers will get about a one percent return of their money taken by the state, despite a record surplus that comprised over 10 percent of the budget for a state growing smaller. Further, spending on recurring commitments will hamstring future elected officials in being able to provide the necessary downsizing of government to create better quality of life.

At least there appears to be one bright spot. With the public in a hostile mood about Louisiana state politicians (evidenced by Blanco’s bowing out of reelection opportunities, current out-party Republicans picking up open positions in special elections, and anybody seen as an incumbent of any kind having a hard time in special elections), some meaningful ethics reform actually seems to have come out of the session. That (unless something dramatic happens before the end of the day) it seems to have beaten long odds shows those legislators running for election in the fall are scared of the public’s antipathy towards the lack of quality of their service. It probably won’t be enough to return many of them to office, however.

Yet in the final analysis, this session fits squarely into the pattern seen in Louisiana state government over the past few decades – squandering yet another opportunity to keep the rest of the world from passing us by. And perhaps the ultimate silver lining is that maybe now the Louisiana electorate will be further incensed by this behavior to make the changes necessary to improve the state in those fall elections.

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