The repeal of the Stelly Plan that removed certain sales taxes on food and other items and created a more balanced income tax structure is causing a much-predicted crisis in Louisiana. We are facing the worst funding shortage in memory. And cuts announced this week to higher education are going to devastate our universities.
When the Stelly Plan, which voters approved, was ceremoniously repealed, we ended up with two tax cuts. And these cuts are not stimulating our economy, they are causing layoffs, higher tuition and myriad problems that will harm the reputation of Louisiana and that threaten our economic future.
When the Stelly Plan was repealed, we didn’t return to the status quo–we just gave a tax cut to the upper brackets and didn’t replace the funds from the removal of the sales taxes.
Stelly was a fair plan. The sales taxes that hurt poor and middle class residents were lightened and we all paid a few dollars more (at least those of us at average income levels, in my case it added less than $100) in income tax. It worked. Now we’re in a pickle. And it’s not even because of some lousy Friedman-esque economic theory–it’s because of political grandstanding and misrepresentation of how taxes work.
Those who want Louisiana to prosper, to have a solid education system, to have better roads, safe and secure drinking water, fair and honest police, fire and emergency service systems, courts that dispense justice and are able to put people in facilities that securely and effectively incarcerate without breeding more crime (or being complete hellholes where you may die within hours whether guilty or not) must pay for these things. That’s what taxes are for. And with federal prosecutors hot on the tails of corruption (thanks in no small way to the fact that all contracts now end up on computers and leave multiple electronic trails), things ARE changing for the better.
But we have to demand vision and leadership from our elected officials, not platitudes and phony political philosophy. And we have to do our parts to participate, to go to meetings, to be watchdogs, to volunteer to help our city halls and parish services, and to vote.
These problems are not going to be solved by name-calling rallies or by shouting down political discourse when our elected officials have public meetings or by calling fellow citizens socialists because we disagree with them. Democracy is hard work. And we in New Orleans have gotten better at it than most of the country. But now we need the rest of Louisiana, the average citizens (not just business and political leaders), to get on the ball and participate.
It took a massive (and man-made) disaster to make us in NOLA get involved. Is that what it’s going to take for the rest of the state to get with it?
UPDATE Thursday June 25: Zombies live in Legislature: SB75 briefly returned from the dead, attached as amendment to SB104 in manipulative move to revive it. See the story here on the T-P website. It ultimately was stripped from the bill in conference committee and finally died. However, the powers behind the bill evidently were determined and influential. Several politicians risked their reputations, including the lead author, Ed Murray, by pushing this bill. As evidenced by several postings on the T-P comments, Murray’s mayoral aspirations are now greatly weakened by his stance on the Master Plan. The fallout will become evident in the coming months as city election season gets underway in the next few weeks. It should be interesting.
UPDATE: Today (June 24) the House voted against SB75 and the bill is now dead.
So, thanks to sleuthing by “Celebrated blogutante” We Could Be Famous, the powers behind the attempt to mess with the City of New Orleans Master Plan process have come to light. Pres Kabacoff’s company HRI, bought the ad in the Times-Picayune pushing support for SB 75 which seeks to usurp the existing Master Plan process by adding yet another pubic vote. As a supporter of the Master Plan who voted in favor of giving it the force of law, I am disturbed by this effort, apparently driven by developers with ulterior motives, to change the policies and procedures for implementing the long-sought planning process for New Orleans. Red herrings, race baiting and misleading motives by proponents of SB75 make this a particularly ugly situation. My senator, Ed Murray, introduced the bill and my rep, Juan LaFonta supports it. I believe if this bill passes, not only will there be expensive taxpayer funded legal challenges, but the plan may never become law. Having participated in the process and read much of the current draft of the plan, I am saddened by the misdirection and misleading arguments offered by SB75 supporters. Current development “systems” in New Orleans have hurt the city and kept businesses and future-thinking developers away. The new plan will codify strong green/sustainable development guidelines and will help make it easier for everyone to interact with zoning processes. It will ensure that a level playing field is available to all.
The bill is now facing a House vote on Monday. I urge everyone to contact members of the Louisiana House of Representatives and let them know that the people of New Orleans already voted in support of the Master Plan process and that this bill will delay and possibly prevent New Orleans from ever having a Master Plan that helps both businesses and the public have a healthy, well-designed environment in which to do business and live.
A senate committee today killed the bill to repeal the helmet laws in Louisiana. It appears to be dead for the session. However, bills don’t die easily and this one might find a way to resurrect. So, the next post in this blog is only half-correct.
Congratulations to the legislators who realized what hypocrisy it is to require seat belts but not helmets. This still doesn’t salvage the overall session, though. Too many hateful, stupid bills by ill-informed leges seem to be making it to the finish line. As always, lots of good news/bad news when the Legislature is active.
In what is turning out to be one of the ugliest legislative sessions in my adult lifetime, the Louisiana Legislature seems bent on further eroding both our reputation and our wellbeing. After passing a bill requiring rear seat passengers to wear seatbelts, the leges kowtowed to the will of former governor–and mentor/benefactor of current Gov. Jindal– Mike Foster’s wishes and passed a bill that allows motorcyclists to go helmet-less, guaranteeing an increase in death and carnage–and higher medical bills that will cost taxpayers. Additionally, the House soundly defeated an attempt to ban smoking in bars and casinos, ostensibly to ensure freedom of choice. But that freedom only extends to smokers–a minority–and ensures that any nonsmokers–the majority–who wish to work in bars and casinos, or merely hear live music, drink a beer or gamble must breathe the toxic outgassing of smoking addicts.
Thanks, Louisiana Legislature! I’m no longer worried that my “right” to kill or maim myself or to personally pollute the air around me while smoking in confined spaces with nonsmokers will be taken away. Who cares that taxpayers will pay my bills if I smash my head in a minor motorcycle accident? And who cares if I make service workers sick or if nonsmokers don’t want to breathe my smoke? It’s freedom of choice–for me! I don’t want the government telling me what I can’t do to your lungs! That’s an invasion of my pursuit of happiness. So screw all you nonsmokers. How dare you use government to tell me what to do with your health!
Louisiana is truly a leader. We have 2 cities in the Top 10 for murder. We are the Number 1 per capita state for carbon emissions. We incarcerate a larger percentage of our population than any other state. And now we “protect” the “rights” of smokers and soon-to-be-brain-injured motorcyclists. Maybe we’ll become one of the top organ donor states when the helmet law becomes effective.
Just don’t get caught in the back seat without your seatbelt on. We wouldn’t want you to hurt yourself. Because we care about your wellbeing.
NOTE: As of 3pm June4, all 3 of these bills await final passage if any of you care to get involved and contact your elected officials. See the Comments for this posting for specifics.