Low skill earnings hits tax income says Fannin

By James Ronald Skains
Journal Correspondent

"Oil prices may be down at the present time but they are not the root cause of the state budget problems in Louisiana," State Representative Jim Fannin and Chairman of the Louisiana House Appropriations Committee told the Piney Woods Journal. "About 25% of our budget revenue comes from personal income tax."

"We have had around a 30% drop-out rate in high school for decades. The earning capability of high school drop-outs is substantially lower than for skilled and educated workers. With less educated and skilled workforce in Louisiana with a lower earning power means a loss in potential tax revenue. Since this problem has been with us for decades, we have seen shrinkage in the earning power of the high school dropouts which translates to less personal income tax revenue as well as sales tax on loss sales due to the financial condition of the lower wage earners."

"We have made great strides in the last three years in addressing these problems by raising our Community and Technical Colleges to the same level of importance as our two University systems in the state," Rep. Fannin explained. "Money is always a problem in education so we are directing as much money as possible to our Community and Technical Colleges. It will take time to turn out a better Louisiana workforce but we are on the right track."

Fannin is a former high school educator himself. Fannin later became a building contractor in the Jackson Parish area. During his building career, Fannin also operated a farm and the Fannin Feed and Supply located east of Jonesboro in Weston.

"It's ironic how how the feed and supply store came to be part of Kitty and my life," Fannin related. "When I was in college, I did an internship with Purina Feed Company one summer.

"We traveled all over the country looking at feed mills and other areas within the feed business. Purina told us that if we wanted to stick with Purina after we finished college that we could have our pick of an area to work in for Purina. I decided to forego a career with Purina and teach school and farm."

"Several years later, the Purina dealer in Jonesboro was getting ready to retire. Purina remembered me and asked if I would like to have the Purina Dealership for Jackson parish. We operated the store in downtown Jonesboro for three years before moving it out to Weston. It's hard to believe that we have been operating in this location for over 25 years."

Fannin was elected as a Louisiana State Representative in 2003 to fill the unexpired term of then state representative Rodney Alexander who had been elected to the US Congress after serving 12 years as a state representative. Fannin then ran as a Democrat in the October 2003 election for a full term in office and was re-elected.

He was re-elected in 2007 and 2011. Fannin, who is now term limited as a state representative authored legislation that provides a diploma to those students who do not pursue a college preparatory high school curriculum.

In July 2013, Fannin switched voter registration from Democrat to Republican. At the time, the three terms plus 7 months state representative had this to say: "I no longer believe the Democrat Party represents my political views or those of my constituents such as on marriage, gun rights and abortion."

"They kept going further away from me. The Democrat Party is no longer where I am politically or spiritually. The Democrat Party has been unwilling to move back to the center politically where it was all my life up until about 15 years ago. I gave them a lot longer than most people have before switching."

Fannin got his first taste of politics as a Democrat while still in college. He was an Agriculture major at Louisiana Tech in Ruston when he was first elected to the Winn Parish Democrat Executive Committee. Fannin was later elected to the Jackson Parish Police Jury before running for State Representative in District 13.

Fannin, who spent 7 years in the Louisiana National Guard has announced his intentions to seek the Louisiana State Senate seat in Senate District 35 now held by Senator Bob Kolstelka. Senator Kostelka, a former Judge is now term-limited in the state senate. Senate District 35 is a big district geographically reaching from Lincoln and Ouachita Parishes in the north south into portions of Rapides Parish.

"Although Senate district 35 gets close to both Monroe and Alexandria metro areas, it is still basically a rural district," Fannin noted. "Some of Lincoln parish is in the 35th District as well as a portion of the Pineville area in Rapides parish."

"The forest industry is the primary industry throughout the 35th District just like it is in the 13th House district. One thing that I bring to the Senate District 35 race is experience in Baton Rouge. My years of experience in the House will certainly give me a leg up on being a good Senator for District 35. And most importantly is that I still have a desire to serve the people in the Legislature. The more I have served in the Legislature, the more I see the need for good public service in the Legislature."

"The budget situation this 2015 legislative session is critical. A $1.6 billion projected deficit is a huge amount of money for the state to be facing," Fannin pointed out. "Whatever we do, we must get it right or a lot of people and programs will be hurt. I don't have a real problem in moving money around for the budget as long it is taxpayer money. I do have a big problem with money coming in from industry that is designated for specific use such as research projects for farmers."

"What so many people don't realize that even in a standstill budget without any real increases, you need $200 million a year in new tax revenue each year just to maintain normal growth in government. We are not seeing the growth in personal income tax due to lack of skilled and educated workers nor are we seeing a growth in sales tax. Sales Tax has been rather flat in Louisiana since Katrina."

"Some people may think that I'm tied closely to Governor Jindal because I've been House Appropriations Committee Chairman. I don't look at the situation in that political tone. I was a member of the House when Foster and Blanco were Governors. I look at the situation as my having been House Appropriations Chairman while Jindal has been Governor."

"Being a member of the Louisiana House or Senate is not an easy job. It is very time demanding especially when you are a Committee Chairman," Fannin explained. "The compensation is for a part-time job but the demands for the Legislative member job are full-time."

"It is so hard to attract younger business people to get into politics because even a job such as a House of Representative position is so time consuming. The compensation for the work done doesn't match the fair value of the work so a person cannot serve, I don't think, and be concerned about earning a living. You almost have to be in my situation where I have a successful business that my wife takes good care of while I do my political work."