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LA makes progress on roads without tax hike

Maybe the sky isn’t falling after all regarding transportation needs in Louisiana despite legislators’ unwillingness to impose higher taxes

All spring, the Gov. John Bel Edwards Administration lectured the state on the allegedly crucial nature of a gasoline tax hike. Breathless and loud proclamations echoed across the land, about how only such an increase, ideally 17 cents or an 85 percent increase over the current level, could permit the state to fund roads beyond the margins. Worse, it argued, the state would not have enough money to take advantage fully of federal matching dollars.

Of course, the attempt to panic policy-makers and the public into raising taxes would have served more to inflate government than to act as a necessary tool to address surface transportation priorities. When sifting through giveaways to local governments and the private sector, unnecessary programs, and bucks spent on air and water infrastructure, $120 million a year could be redirected to roads if policy-makers wanted without any taxes going higher.


Tax rate cuts must accompany exception paring

In the debate about the size of state government, Louisiana deserves informed commentary, not one-sided polemicizing.

The state continues to struggle with structuring its fiscal system to promote economic development. Its 469 tax exemptions have come under particular scrutiny, with a recent panel convened by law recommending elimination of many. In response, instead, the Legislature tinkered around the margins and in net made no improvements to a structure that exempts as much as it collects.

This followed an effort made by Gov. John Bel Edwards to alter granting of Industrial Tax Exemption Program benefits that affects local governments, through executive order. His one-size-fits-all approach fails to distinguish among the economic value brought by the request and, even after slight modification, invites politicization of the process.


Monument vote to reverberate against Caddo

The Caddo Parish Commission just can’t seem to get anything right lately.

Disregarding its own citizens panel’s recommendation, last week the body voted 7-5 to remove the monument to Confederate soldiers that sits near the parish courthouse. Given that the parish does not even have certain ownership of the parcel hosting the object, it has decided to set sail in decidedly choppy political waters.

At best, the argument to move it rested on emotion, not fact or logic. Listed on the National Register of Historical Places, it marks a historically important venue – the place where the last capital of Louisiana as a rebel state operated and eventually gave up. It doesn’t celebrate the Confederacy but local soldiers killed in action, regardless that they fought for a mistaken regime, and stands more for what it said about local attitudes about the war at the time of its erection and decades after than any ideas behind the rebellion. Given its siting in a lightly-trafficked area, unless somebody makes some effort to bring it to attention, few in the community even notice it, much less try to figure out what it is.


LA case can help rebalance EPA biases

As the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency charts a course away from its unbalanced, biased tack of the previous eight years, a Louisiana controversy has emerged as one of the avenues by which correction may occur.

Denka Performer Elastomer LLC, with a plant in St. John the Baptist Parish, has petitioned the EPA for relief from an unnecessarily-high standard imposed upon the emission of chloroprene. In 2010, through its Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS) that collates known scientific studies, the EPA declared a limit of 0.2 micrograms of it per cubic meter of air for the chemical. The plant on occasion has emitted 12 to 58 times that amount.

But in a letter to the EPA earlier this year and through Congressional testimony last month, experts from a firm with extensive IRIS experience hired by Denka questioned the calculation of that amount. They pointed out, in the case of chloroprene studies, a number of shortcomings to the IRIS procedure, many having come to light previously in reports by expert panels of the National Academy of Sciences. In all, using published data and recognized methods, the experts discovered the EPA level overestimated the dangerous amount of chloroprene by 156 times.