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LABI head lists top 4 issues of upcoming session


March 27, 2017
By Bonnie Bolden
Originally Posted on The News Star

LABI President Stephen Waguespack listed the four primary issues he thinks will be addressed in the upcoming legislative session on Monday.

He said fiscal reform, criminal justice, litigation and legal reform and infrastructure will top the list of needs.

For the past 90 years, he said, employers in the state have been unfairly blamed for declines in income. Exemptions, he said, are not the issue when the economy isn't as robust as it should, and could, be.

Waguespack highlighted the need to send nonviolent offenders through drug rehab or work training programs instead of incarcerating them with violent offenders. Ensuring there's an adequate workforce better serves communities.

Over the last year and a half, he said, the state has ramped up efforts to go after the oil and gas industry for actions carried out decades ago. He called coastal lawsuits a dangerous precedent that would allow industries to be sued years after the fact when no illegal action was committed.

Improved infrastructure, he said, polls well but people haven't been willing to support a gas tax that would fund the work. He said if the state can set a specific amount to be raised, clearly define projects and show transparency and accountability, the public might be willing to support the measure.

To get the state on track, Waguespack said, the legislature will have to fix the economy. The first step is to stop taking unproductive measures, such as changing the tax code every six months and spreading investment dollars too thin.

He said legislators need to overhaul the state's tax code and the budget, including changing statutory dedications. He advocated for keeping tax dollars close and local.

He also said the state needs to address spending. He warned it's not a one-time cut and lawmakers need to look at big entitlements and inspect the efficacy and spending of entities across the state.

To stabilize the budget, he said, underlying issues need to be addressed. Lawmakers will have to get in the weeds and get their hands dirty, but with work, he said, Louisianians will be able to have better schools and infrastructure while still enjoying the culture they know and love.

The Louisiana Association of Business and Industry is the state's largest business group.