Rep. Raymond Crews said he was optimistic about this regular session because he expects better news than lawmakers received during the special session prior to this session, when lawmakers failed to raise revenue to cover a projected $1 billion shortfall, dubbed the ‘Fiscal Cliff.”
“I expect to find the revenue problem isn’t as dire as is being presented,” Peacock said. “I think the House Appropriations Committee will find several hundred million dollars they can eliminate without closing any programs or offices. I think the economic picture is looking up. I think that will mitigate much of the remaining shortfall. I expect the shortfall will wind up being about $150 million to $300 million. If so, we’ll have to do another special session.”
Crews said the Legislature needs to restore trust with the people in this session.
“My take on the regular session is that we need to address the major reason why people are reluctant to raise revenue,” he said. “It’s because they don’t trust the government. They want to know where the money is gong and how it’s being used.
“We need to get transparency, like the LA Checkbook and Medicaid reform. If they can get that done in the regular session, we have a better chance to generate the revenue we need in the special session.”
Crews is introducing legislation to protect whistle-blowers who report fraud in the state government.
“They need to be able to point this stuff out. It’s like the safety program in the aviation system in this country. For many decades there was a decent number of accidents reported to try to prevent more accidents. But what we found was those were just the tip of the iceberg. How do we get to the rest of the iceberg? How do we find what else is a concern? They started a program where people could bring things to light without fear of reprisal.”
Under this proposed legislation, concerned citizens could report their issue and support the claim with evidence.
“If you didn’t do it just to harass someone, then it’s covered. If you have no evidence, then you have to cover court cost. It’s not going to be willy-nilly. There has to be some kind of proof. If the attorney general wants to take over and pursue it, he can. I think there’s more confidence in the government when the people are looking after it.”
Crews also is introducing a payment in lieu of taxes program in order to help recruit new businesses to the state. Under this proposal, a company that might not relocate here because of roads or some other issue could provide money up front to resolve the issue and then get credit for that money spent on future years’ taxation.
“It’s been proposed before,” Crews said. “We just want to incentivize companies to come and provide jobs for the state.”
Crews said he was not sure what effect the first special session might have on the regular session.
“That’s hard to tell. You could look at it as saying, ‘Hey, we’re serious that were not going to raise taxes.’ Or you could see it as a faction tried to stop progress. I hope the governor sees it as being serious about reform. I call it the million dollar lesson for him. We need to meet in middle. The conservative side presented the end-state they want. We are being honest — this is the whole package. There is a level of authenticity that people will appreciate. Im hopeful they will.
When something like this happens, there is always political fallout. I’m concerned people don’t realize how good a speaker we have. He’s not as conservative as some would want, but he’s not as liberal as some would want. He’s the best representative to pull the sides together.”
By Scott Anderson