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Report points way to future LA tax cutting, simplification

The Tax Foundation’s annual report of state business climate, or at least a segment of it calculated on the basis of state and local tax burdens, reminds again of Louisiana’s unusual tax structure, giving some commentators an opportunity to make declarations ranging from the timid to ludicrous, but also highlighting that some minor tweaks could create a more efficient system that stimulates growth in tax revenues by shifting revenue sources around to allow room for tax relief.

The report notes the state ranks 32nd of the states and District of Columbia. Actually, on most parts of the index, which research has shown to be a good measure of economic growth potential, Louisiana doesn’t rank that poorly, in the upper half (meaning lowest half of aggregate rates) of individual income tax policy and property taxes, the upper third in corporate income taxes, and fourth-best on unemployment insurance taxes. What really knocks it down is its third-highest score on sales taxes, with a weighted state/local average of 8.85 percent.

This perturbed Treasurer John Kennedy, but who didn’t make anything other than a general recommendation about changing it by than repeating the truism that lower rates and broader coverage made for the most efficient system. He did say specifically what he called “unnecessary” individual and corporate income taxation exemptions should be eliminated, which would create a broader base.


Education reform opponents fail to offer cogent critiques

Supporters of bigger government and reduced individual choice are scrambling to find arguments against Gov. Bobby Jindal’s as-yet general proposal to expand nongovernment school options for students in average-or-worse public schools. As indicated by remarks of theirs, they offer nothing anywhere close to compelling.

Director of the leftist Louisiana Coalition for Progress, Melissa Flournoy, at a recent appearance gave it a go to oppose the proposal, which would allow any student in a school rated C, D, or F to receive a scholarship voucher (both terms being used interchangeably so why not combine them), at present guessed to be at the $4,000-5,000 range, from the state to pay for a child’s education at a private school (the legislation may end up allowing it to be used at any public school as well). In presenting her case Flournoy, who served from 1992-96 in the state House but who alienated her constituents so quickly that she ran for election for the Senate instead and lost, made errors both in argumentation and in logic that demonstrate these tactics should be insufficient to stop this policy from being enacted.

First, Flournoy claimed that a limited segment of the population could benefit from the program. She asserted that the tuition at Baton Rouge schools, for example, was too high for the presumed upper limit that Jindal’s proposal would allow, meaning that only family’s with additional resources could take advantage of the program.


Even partial agenda success makes Jindal transformative

Veteran politicians know what these guys know when negotiating what they want – don’t be afraid to climb those golden stairs, ask for the maybe the moon but not the stars (going overboard makes one look unserious), and, while you’re unlikely to get what you initially claim you want, you still might get a pretty good deal. Gov. Bobby Jindal knows that, and his budget proposal with the necessary allied policy changes shows that, gives clues as to where policy might head, and provides a marker that assesses the degree of policy change success he seems likely to enjoy.

In each of the three big controversial policy objectives Jindal forwarded in the document released last week (although the details of the allied legislative changes necessary have yet to be submitted as legislation), relative to Louisiana’s ingrained political culture that condones government as wealth redistributor and livelihood provider, he takes a big, but not ridiculously so, whack. He wishes to ratchet back the gravy train afforded to state employees by altering its generous retirement provisions, to jumpstart institutional and individual education reforms to increase achievement, and to begin replicating what he has started to do in the health care field, induce greater efficiency through having functions performed outside of government bureaucracy when they can be done at least as well and for less, in the area of corrections. For each, there are some things he must be willing to modify and/or let go in order to get the rest.


Adley should help out, show genuine ethics reform desire

Gov. Bobby Jindal looks to introduce more ethics laws changes that he says will work out kinks that have cropped up from the changes he backed four years ago. It'll be interesting to see if one of his holier-than-thou critics signs on and serves as a workhorse in the effort. Given his actions in another ethics-related matter last year, he may just sit on the sidelines and continue merely to act as a showhorse for when it's politically convenient for him.

Last fall, as the election season cranked up, state Sen. Robert Adley remonstrated greatly about the legality of an arrangement between 26th District Attorney Schuyler Marvin and one of Marvin’s assistants. In 1999, Patrick Jackson was hired as an assistant district attorney by Marvin’s predecessor. Later, he became employed by the Bossier Parish Police Jury to represent it and his private practice, which continued, was employed by the Webster Parish Police Jury, both of which comprise the district. But state law mandates, subject to exceptions that neither parish pursued nor qualified for, that the appropriate district attorney provide representation to parishes without them separately having to hire it.

Last year, Adley asked the Louisiana Legislative Auditor to look into these deals, and it duly issued a report. The LLA argued that, if anything, Jackson appeared much more to be an employee of the parish than of the DA, considering the lack of documentation about his hiring and performance with the DA but which is present for the parish, that the vast bulk of his salary comes from the parish, and he was in the retirement system for parishes, not for DA employees.