Contrary to the prevailing opinion among opinion writers and politicos, the Louisiana Legislature didn’t do nothing in the 30-day special session that concluded late last week.
No sir, lawmakers shuffled some money around to compensate public school systems impacted by hurricanes Laura and Delta, and they managed to stave off a spike in the unemployment tax on businesses in the wake of sky-rocketing unemployment claims during the Coronavirus pandemic. But that about sums up everything positive the Legislature accomplished in a special session that cost the taxpayers millions of dollars to conduct.
Anyone who was around in the 1980s when the state ran out of money to pay unemployment claims during the collapse of the oil and gas industry will remember the surtax businesses were forced to pay to keep the money flowing to the unemployed. Well, here we are again some three-plus decades down the road and the state is borrowing money from the federal government to pay unemployment claims. Why? Because the state has drained its unemployment trust fund thanks to the economic calamity caused by the pandemic.
Lawmakers as well as the Edwards administration are counting on the Congress to approve another economic stimulus package to assist businesses and state and local governments adversely affected by the pandemic, but it’s anyone’s guess when that will occur and whether the Congress will appropriate enough money to pull states like Louisiana out of a financial ditch. Another option Louisiana could pursue would entail taking on bonded indebtedness to replenish the unemployment trust fund and repay the federal government for the money the state borrowed to pay unemployment claims in the first place.
Bonded indebtedness must be paid off over time, and it’s under that scenario that the business community in Louisiana will get socked with an unemployment surtax to service the debt. If you believe Louisiana businesses can simply absorb a tax hike at this time, ask a business owner what he or she thinks.
Meanwhile, lawmakers in the House of Representatives also found some time toward the end of the special session to spit out a meaningless petition directing Gov. John Bel Edwards to set aside his watered down emergency order restricting gatherings and whatnot while we mere commoners fumble along in the midst of the Coronavirus craze. Edwards says he will take the House to court to challenge the petition on constitutional grounds. Mark my word, the governor will prevail, and the House will be made to look foolish and leaderless.
Nevertheless, an aspiring House member or two will take to the social media airwaves — with a straight face — to inform his conservative base that he fought the governor but the governor won thanks to a judge who thinks he knows a thing or two about the state Constitution just because he went to law school. Then again, every legislative body needs a good chest-thumper. Or a panderer.
Sam Hanna Jr. can be reached by phone at 318-805-8158 or e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.