Long says voters want solutions
By James Ronald Skains
I think all the pieces to solving our long-term fiscal problems, Louisiana State Senator Gerald Long told the Piney Woods Journal. Senator Long continued, Our State Governments fiscal condition will continue to be a real cliff-hanger each year if we dont solve these problems in this legislative session.
As Ive traveled around my district, my constituents have consistently told me two things first do not mess with the TOPS program and second stop playing politics and just get the job done! This is the same story that most of my Legislative colleagues are hearing from the people in their districts."
One area in which many state legislators say they have problems with the Governor is that of Medicaid expansion. The truth of the matter is that Medicaid expansion has been very good for Louisiana. The Medicaid expansion has allowed Louisiana to better take care of those people in need of health care in our state.
When the state puts up $20 million into Medicaid expansion, the state gets back $80 million dollars which is not a bad return on investment. There are several other federal matching funds programs that can be helpful to our state if we pursue them.
Governor Edwards called a Special Session of the Louisiana Legislature to run from February 7 through March 7 after both sides, Republicans and Democrats, indicated that they were willing to try and solve the state budget crisis with the pieces of the fiscal problem now on the table.
When I first came to the Legislature ten years ago, nearly 30% of the state government was made up of revenue from the oil and gas industry, Senator Long, President Pro-Tempore of the Senate explained. Although we have seen somewhat of a stablization of oil prices in the $60 per barrel range, oil tax revenue will account for only five perent of our State Budget for 2018.
I believe that the people of Louisiana truly want us to solve our fiscal problems and to not continue to kick the can down the road. I believe the Speaker of the House and the Governor are on the same page, if not yet on the same paragraph in solving our budget crisis.
The Governor is opposed to renewing the penny sales tax which helped bail the state out pf our last fiscal crisis.
Louisiana not only has a revenue problem but a fiscal crisis on tax credits and incentives that go back more than 50 years.
Louisiana is a generous state in offering tax breaks to companies moving to or expanding in Louisiana. We have to draw the reins on a lot of these tax credit programs."
There is a whole new economic system out there 24/7 buying, selling, and delivering goods that are not now taxed as they should be. Netflix is one company that comes to mind that operates on the internet but no real tax revenue is collected from their activities. Just by requiring these internet companies to pay their fair share of tax money on merchandise sold in Louisiana.
The career path of State Senator Gerald indicates a person who is a problem solver and a peoples person. Long, a Winnfield High School and Northwestern State graduate taught school for a few years before entering the insurance business from which he retired in 1999.
For eight years, Long was a representative for the Fellowship of Christian Athletes in ten northwest Louisiana parishes. He worked with 80 high schools and junior high schools two universites in his area. During that period of time, Long was a menber of the Gideon organization and later an ordained minister. During this period, Long was very much involved in both Christian and civic organizations.
In 2013, Long introduced legislation to provide tax incentives to encourage the younger generation of farm families and loggers to remain in the family business after the parents reach retirement age. Long pointed out at the time that farming and logging are two industries that are typically passed down through the generations of the family."
Im extremely impressed by the leadership of our Governor, John Bel Edwards, Long state. He is willing to tackle issues head on and find solutions to the problems.
There may be some consternation with people buying new equipment if the state tax incentive credit is eleminated or even scaled back. We are not focusing on any one particular section of our business community to bear a greater tax burden.
However, Senator Long said in conclusion, The pieces to our solving our fiscal crisis in Louisiana are on the table to fit together to complete the puzzle.
Ive always been a fiscal conservative wanting to cut wasteful spending and eliminate tax credits to companies that should not have them. If the legislature will focus on what is good for the state and not play politics we could have a very successful special session."