Ready or not, Louisiana is in full election swing. With the election season comes campaign ads, mailers, social media blitzes, and of course, promises both ambitious and ambiguous to fix our economy, slash taxes, and make Louisiana a more prosperous state. Unfortunately, for those seeking office, the voting public is fed up with these empty promises. We want a leader with integrity; we want a leader with vision; we deserve a leader who can deliver both with a plan that works for Louisiana.
The voting public is also fed up with the fact that our state always finds itself on the wrong end of national charts. Adding to that frustrating list is an Ernest & Young study released in November 2018 that found that Louisiana has had the largest increase in state and local business tax collections at a staggering 12.5%. The study also found that Louisiana raised corporate income taxes by an incredible 70%. Texas had an increase of 3.3%, and Mississippi actually saw a decrease of .06%. The state that came closest to our crippling tax inflation was New Mexico with an increase of 8%. If you add the increases in New Mexico and Texas it still doesn’t total the increase in Louisiana.
The rankings continue to nauseate. The U.S. News & World Report put out their annual state ranking and to no surprise, Louisiana found itself dead last. In every metric we ranked among the bottom five states. Our 50th place ranking is not the most sickening thing about this year’s study. The biggest problem is that absolutely nothing has changed from last year’s report. The American Tort Reform Association found that Louisiana had the 5th overall worst legal climate in the nation. High taxes, excessive lawsuits, and an overall anti-business climate in Louisiana is making it impossible for us to compete.
These rankings are not abstract thoughts on paper. They represent real challenges real Louisianans live with. For years now, we have experienced an outward migration of young hardworking families leaving home to find better opportunity. You know it’s true as you’ve waved goodbye to friends leaving for Houston, Dallas, and Midland. This mass migration from our state was often referred to as “Texodus,” but now individuals are departing Louisiana for states in every direction. That includes Mississippi. Yes, Mississippi. Perhaps Louisiana should build its own wall to stop people from leaving.
The effects are seen across all industries but none as evident as Louisiana’s oil and gas industry. South Louisiana is suffering from historical lows in oil and gas activity despite having what noted economist Dr. Loren Scott called “The mother-lode of oil and natural gas” within her borders. Many service companies who call the Lafayette and Houma areas “home” are sending the majority of their labor over into Texas. One company representative remarked that simply driving into a restaurant parking lot in Texas and seeing all the Louisiana license plates makes you realize the real shape our state is in.
Needless to say, it’s a sorry state for our economy and the families who make Louisiana home. The path that we are on is not sustainable. Luckily for Louisiana, we do have a chance to straighten the path we are on in these upcoming elections. We have three announced candidates, each who bring a unique perspective to the table to fix the difficult issues facing the Bayou State. We said we want a leader with integrity; we want a leader with vision; and we deserve a leader who delivers both with a plan that works for Louisiana. On behalf of the over 1,300 LOGA members, the teams at their companies, the service sector that supports them, and the communities that rely on them, plus the entire state, we ask those candidates seeking to be Louisiana’s new governor, what is your plan?
It’s not ok to write off thousands of jobs and millions in revenue leaving Southwest Louisiana. We can’t simply say we can’t compete with Texas or the Permian, or breathe and hope for higher prices or the Austin Chalk to save us. We need a plan. We need to elect leadership that moves to execute that plan that secures a thriving oil and gas industry again across ALL of Louisiana.
Gifford Briggs is president of the Louisiana Oil & Gas Association