By Edwin Buggage
Special Session Focus on Balance Budget
The Louisiana Legislature is presently in a special session in an attempt to balance the budget for 2018-19. Presently, there is a 1-billion-dollar deficit that legislators are trying to figure out how to cover this shortfall.
During this session Democratic Senate Caucus Chair Troy Carter is leading the way in trying to create a more responsible, fair and equitable way to distribute the tax burden where everybody pays their fair share.
Why the Poor Pay More
Recently, Carter sent a letter to Governor John Bel Edwards regarding the special session. In short, he and his Democratic colleagues are arguing against extending a temporary one-cent sales tax increase and feels there are other ways to balance the state budget.
“There has been some rumbling that some primarily THE Republicans to balance the 1-billion-dollar shortfall that they would fight to extend to fight the temporary 1 cent sales tax and make it permanent,” says Carter. “This would raise 980 million dollars, but I want to be abundantly clear to the governor that we were not going to support this measure; when we enacted this tax, we said it would be temporary, and we are not going to allow balancing the budget of the on the backs of poor and working-class people of Louisiana.”
In Louisiana, the poor, working and middle-classes pay sales taxes on mostly every item they purchase. While there are exemptions for items rarely purchased by everyday people of the state according to Carter.
“A person that collects antique airplanes they don’t pay sales tax on that item. The last time I checked many people I know cannot afford to buy antique airplanes or to collect gold bullion which is not taxable. You tell me a person can buy these types of things and not pay taxes, but working-class families have to pay taxes on a loaf of bread and everything else they purchase. Let’s be fair when it comes to taxes that everyone pays their fair share across the board.”
To Serve the People or Special Interest
In politics, it is often the disconnect between the people, who often times feel powerless and special interest through contributing money and hiring lobbyist that their agenda is often first priority and not those of the average citizen. This is something Carter and the Senate Democratic Caucus are trying to change.
“Big business has their lobby oil and gas have their lobby, but we are taking the position that we are the lobbyist for the working-class people of Louisiana. The people have been abused by government and they feel they don’t have a voice. We are saying yes you have a voice and we will fight for legislation that benefits the majority of the people of the state many of which who are struggling to make ends meet or maintain what they have.”
Solutions May Lie in Bi-Partisanship and Amending the State Constitution
Many times, when there are budget shortfalls there are cuts in healthcare and education. This is the case because 75% of the budget is constitutionally protected. Senator Carter is proposing changes to the State Constitution that hasn’t been amended since 1974 to address making cuts to other areas that can balance the budget and spread the responsibility of taxation to more people of the state.
As is the case in much of America, the State of Louisiana is experiencing a partisan divide that is preventing legislators from working on bi-partisan solutions to the problems that face the people of the state.
“Having served in elected offices for as long as I have served, it was never as divided along party lines as it is now. We have never had these kinds of problems before. I don’t know if it’s the boldness that Trump may have made people feel or the issues of what’s going on nationally. But there’s been a sense of division I’ve never seen. This is strange because day to day we walk around and talk to each other, but when it comes to these policy issues we are divided. I often question why are some of my colleagues on the other side of the aisle are oftentimes working against the best interest of their constituents because they are tied up to a partisan position to get someone out of office and take the ship down with them is a real problem that we can put politics and political party agendas before people.”
Legislation and the Human Impact
But Carter says his Democratic Senate colleagues and the Louisiana Legislative Black Caucus are willing to work with Republicans on solutions for all the people of the state. Quoting from his letter to the governor he spoke of their support for Republican Senator Act 402 by Jack Donahue that received unanimous votes for a standstill budget. Carter says now the Republicans are backing away as if they are unwilling to honor this commitment.
“We have continued to extend our hand, that unfortunately as of late it seems my Republican colleagues in the State Legislature are following the misguided direction of Washington and the partisan divide and we are missing the boat working together for the people of Louisiana.”
He says that bi-partisanship and a sense of thinking about the human impact of legislation are key in coming up with solutions to the problems that plague cities across the state.
“I am a proud member of the Democratic Party, but I understand alone that we cannot by ourselves get things done and we must work harder together across party lines because what we do here in Baton Rouge does impact people in a real way and this is something we cannot forget when we are making public policy.”