Opinion: Duke Lowrie (Guest Columnist) – Louisiana can not tax its way to prosperity

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Louisiana can not tax its way to prosperity

While it may now be cliché, Winston Churchill once said “I contend that for a nation to try to tax itself into prosperity is like a man standing in a bucket and trying to lift himself up by the handle.” Unfortunately, Louisiana currently has a governor trying to do just that.

This recent infatuation with raising taxes on Louisiana businesses and individuals should terrify every citizen of this state. Governor John Bel Edwards, in his first two months in office, signed the largest tax hike in Louisiana history into law – not to mention going on record calling for even more taxes on top of the ones just passed into law.

In Bossier parish, we didn’t vote for Governor Edwards, so the “don’t blame me” sentiment is well-earned here in that regard. The area that we don’t get off scott-free, however, is in the area of electing visionary legislators who could foresee the budgetary dire-straits we currently find ourselves in.

Sure, we have a delegation who votes against most tax hikes, excluding Senator Ryan Gatti who still hasn’t found a tax for which he didn’t vote in favor. What we’re missing is a visionary representative who is prepared to make tough decisions to fix our state’s fiscal mess, a man or woman with a plan, if you will.

I urge our delegation to step up to the plate and offer solutions to fix the problems that Louisiana faces. I appreciate the votes against most of the tax hikes, but that simply is not enough. We need our leaders to stand up and author and co-author legislation that will fix our tax system and permanently change the way that Louisiana does business.

As long as we have a tax system that features a high rate and many volatile tax credits offered to businesses, we will continue to ride a fiscal rollercoaster that results in last-minute tax hikes to cover our obligations in bad times. Louisiana needs a system that eliminates many of the credits offered in exchange for a flat, low rate that affords predictability to both businesses and government.

On top of the changes to the tax system, we need changes to how Louisiana spends its tax dollars. Currently, we have so much money tied up in statutory and constitutional dedications that we can’t easily make appropriate cuts to state government when we hit a rough patch.  Our leaders need to end their relationship with state funds that can’t be touched. The legislature can undo statutory dedications immediately if they want. Undoing of constitutional dedications is long-overdue, and requires a more difficult process, but is worthy of consideration nonetheless.

This isn’t rocket science. If a retired firefighter and small-businessman from Bossier Parish can understand it, anyone can. Saying our fiscal house is out of order is an understatement. Now is the time for our legislators to step up and demand changes. If not, I predict the governor will be successful in taxing us even further away from prosperity.

Duke Lowrie is a Bossier City resident and businessman. He is a former political candidate and remains very active in Louisiana politics. He can be reached at duke@dukelowrie.com.