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LABI president says taxpayers not heard in budget debate

February 16, 2016
Originally Posted on Greater Baton Rouge Business Report

Louisiana Association of Business and Industry President Stephen Waguespack says the voice of the average taxpayer has been absent in the debate about how Louisiana should address its budget shortfalls.

In his latest column posted on the LABI website, Waguespack says he watched Gov. John Bel Edwards’ recent televised speech on the budget gaps and the need to raise revenues, as well as the response by Treasurer John Kennedy, who maintains the state can shore up its coffers with spending cuts.

“All I could think about was the speech not being given that night,” Waguespack writes. “While two elected officials spoke about different ways to fund government, no one spoke on behalf of the hard working taxpayers of Louisiana.”

Had a taxpayer penned a response to Edwards’ and Kennedy’s thoughts on the budget crisis, Waguespack says, they would likely highlight the fact that Louisiana has lost at least 11,000 jobs since last year, with 10,000 of those being in the oil and gas sector alone. 

“That’s 20 percent of our energy workforce. And experts say this may just be the beginning,” Waguespack notes in a portion of his column he attributes to “John Q. Taxpayer.”

The LABI president says John Q. Taxpayer would also question state leaders if anyone has taken a hard look in the mirror before resorting “to threats” on taxpayers.

“Were cuts to local government subsidies considered?  Were state agencies asked to shrink their workforce? Were the numerous boards and commissions in Louisiana with overlapping jurisdiction told to consolidate?” he writes. “Our employers pay 70 percent of the combined taxes in this state. They are desperately trying to keep their doors open and their employees on the payroll. They should be commended for that investment in any year, but especially in the middle of a rapidly escalating recession. We want our people to have jobs, not be dependent on government programs. That is bad for the state budget, but even worse for the quality of life of our people.”