For the most part, they’re not headline-grabbing. They don’t often prompt large rallies on the steps of the Capitol. They rarely make their way onto your Facebook feed. Yet many of the issues our team tackles at the Legislature have one thing in common: they profoundly impact our members’ ability to create jobs.
For decades, the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry (LABI) has released an annual scorecard to offer a data-driven analysis of how each legislator voted on the issues most important to the economy and the business community. This report follows that same model, using clear metrics to help explain the actions of lawmakers in the four legislative sessions of 2018. But unlike previous editions, the 20th LABI Legislative Scorecard largely demonstrates the work left to be done, rather than proactive policies that became law.
2018 was a year filled with contention and frustration, as lawmakers again attempted to resolve the fiscal challenges of state government. The governor originally requested $1.2 billion in tax revenue to prevent a host of damaging consequences but eventually was able to address state needs with less than half that amount. After 10 combined legislative sessions in less than three years, our elected officials closed the deficit using more sales taxes and an unanticipated boost in state income taxes resulting from recent federal tax cuts. Significant reforms to state and local spending, programs or structures were left for another day. Most informed observers are quietly predicting that spending will once again begin to outpace revenue sooner than we expect. The cycle continues.
As session after session broke down, major challenges facing the state were sidelined by the bureaucratic bubble of Baton Rouge. As a result, major votes in this year’s scorecard assess reforms that failed to pass due to opposition from state and local leaders invested and dependent on the status quo, even as changes are desperately needed to bring stability to government and prosperity to the economy. For instance:
- A bipartisan proposal to improve the cost and performance of legacy state pension systems;
- Attempts to bring more accountability to Medicaid spending;
- The elimination of overly burdensome regulations that hinder job opportunities;
- Efforts to limit frivolous lawsuits and lower auto insurance rates by allowing evidence of seat belt use in civil trials;
- Common-sense legislation to promote entrepreneurship and affordable ridesharing statewide; and
- A limited Constitutional Convention to rewrite our governing document to better reflect the needs and vision of today’s taxpayers.
Additional detail on these proposals can be found in this report or on our website at labi.org/score-card. In the 2018 scorecard, LABI is proud to recognize lawmakers who took courageous stands to promote these reforms and to defend free enterprise, including:
- 24 Most Valuable Policymakers (MVPs) who voted 100 percent to support jobs and the economy;
- 21 All-Stars who voted 90 percent or more to support jobs and the economy; and
- 11 Honorable Mentions who voted 80 percent or more to support jobs and the economy.
Their leadership gives us hope for the future, for our state is at a crossroads.
Louisiana now has the largest budget in state history, and the state tax code is cumbersome at best. Louisiana’s legal climate is dead-last, our infrastructure needs are almost overwhelming. More than 40 percent of Louisianans utilize Medicaid for health care, and the state educational system still fails to meet the needs of thousands of Louisianans. The state GDP growth is ranked at the bottom of the nation, and major regions of Louisiana continue to face economic stagnation.
Our government must stop living crisis to crisis and holistically evolve into a new model that works for the future. This transformation will be complicated and challenging. It will require patience, collaboration and bipartisanship.
We at LABI stand ready to work with everyone to take that step. No political party owns all the answers or all the blame, and there is room for diverse perspectives to get this right. Louisiana deserves a better government than we have today, and the time for action is now.
Stephen Waguespack is president of LABI