Candidates for Governor Talk Budget
The $1.6-billion state budget deficit is going to be a major factor in the in the gubernatorial election this fall. All four announced candidates for governor appeared at a forum earlier this month, and offered their ideas on how to deal with the shortfall.
U.S. Senator David Vitter says he will fix it, if the current administration won’t.
“I’ve proposed addressing state budget, revenue, spending issues—looking at all of these things in a special session immediately after I’m sworn in as governor,” Vitter said.
State Rep. John Bel Edwards says that will be too little, too late.
“We cannot wait till January 2016 to address our problems. We better do it in April,” Edwards insisted. “Because in January 2016, if we have not, we’re going to be figuring out how to open universities that have been closed. And the rest of them are gonna be on life support.”
All the candidates said they expect to go after the so-called “low-hanging fruit”—Louisiana’s numerous tax exemptions and tax credits. Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne says every tax giveaway should be considered eligible for cutting—and sooner, rather than later.
“I hope the legislature, during this session, is going to take a look at those exemptions and exclusions and credits,” Dardenne said. “I think this is a time of crisis, and now is the time to look at that and say, can this give us some relief?”
Public Service Commissioner Scott Angelle wants to take a hard look at the tax programs Louisiana’s Department of Economic Development uses as bait for luring new business—including the so-called “Mega Fund”.
“We began to trade, I believe, one set of problems for another by giving away some of our state revenue to be able to get folks,” Angelle explained. “That’s an appropriate use of money when we get what we pay for. But we are not getting what we pay for.”
Vitter says he doesn’t trust the current administration not to access every pot of money they can find, in order to balance the budget.
“BP money could be stolen,” Vitter warned. “It could be another big piggy bank that’s robbed—this year, potentially—to plug these budget holes.”
Dardenne says the current budget process is close to being criminal.
“Our budget has been full of sleights of hand—almost a Ponzi scheme—of moving moneys around, moving one time money around to serve recurring needs,” Dardenne said.
Governor Jindal’s budget proposal is due for submission to the legislature in a month. The legislative session starts April 13.
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