Gov. John Bel Edwards issued a list of suggestions Monday that he says will address an estimated $1 billion shortfall for the fiscal year that starts July 1.
It's the latest in a years-long string of budget crises that have resulted in a combination of tax increases and budget cuts, affecting almost every Louisiana resident.
Edwards had proposed a more-comprehensive tax reform plan earlier this year, but the Legislature rejected it. Instead, lawmakers resorted to the same old Band-Aid approach, passing temporary fixes, including a 1-cent sales tax set to expire June 30, and enacting budget cuts that in many cases diminished services Louisiana residents depend on most.
A small fraction of the state's budget, mostly health care and education, is open to cuts. The rest is protected by state law or the constitution, much of it locked in to benefit special interests or lawmakers' pet projects or to accommodate voters who distrust the system so much that the only way they would approve taxes to pay for services was to lock the spending into law.
One of the best solutions would be a constitutional convention, which would allow the Legislature to start from scratch and create a tax system that puts the state on solid financial footing for the long haul. Lawmakers have been reluctant to do that, with many worried that their pet projects and favorite programs, now protected by law, would be exposed to cuts.
Barring that, state lawmakers owe it to their constituents to do something that has the same effect -- ending the piecemeal approach that has helped put the state at or near the bottom of almost every ranking when it comes to important public services, including health, education and roads.
Edwards suggests his package is a start. It mostly follows suggestions from a nonpartisan study group formed by lawmakers. In gist, it would raise taxes on certain businesses and some middle- and upper-earning taxpayers. Edwards says his plan would be "revenue neutral" but would help give the state a more dependable income and avoid the need to press the panic button to avoid shortfalls year after year.
A move in that direction would be nice. A serious overhaul would be better.
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