During last November's hurricane-recovery session, special interests were also able to force through a small tax cut on electricity and natural gas, but the momentum came to a noticeable halt in this year's regular session when lawmakers turned their attention to other matters having little or nothing to do with economic growth.
But the political landscape is shifting again, and the next several months could be ripe with opportunities. Budget surpluses for 2006 and 2007 could potentially top $1 billion, and revenue forecasts remain somewhat bolstered by oil prices and recovery spending. To top it off, 2007 will be an election year complemented by term limits, which could make for a generous Legislature.
Business advocates are already eyeing the situation and crafting a strategy that focuses on furthering tax reforms. Still, the rosy fiscal situation could flip at any moment; state Treasurer John Kennedy has repeatedly warned that the "recovery bubble" will eventually burst, leaving Louisiana in a less-than-desirable financial position.
Special interest groups realize the likelihood of that scenario, but they argue their respective memberships will be there to support the economy when the fizzle starts ' and policy makers should make every effort to strengthen business and industry now.
Donna Landry, chairwoman of the Greater Lafayette Chamber of Commerce, says the push for tax reform could be successful next year if business interests take a united front and state revenues don't take a dramatic fall. She also says business leaders need to consider progressive issues for regional development.
"Our focus in recent months has been on transportation and infrastructure issues," Landry says. "The current model for financing our priorities is under-funded, and we need to make sure we're getting our fair share so we can manage our population and traffic growth."
Specifically, the chamber is interested in finding alternative funding methods for the Lafayette Metropolitan Expressway project, a transportation plan expected to cost upwards of $740 million, depending on the route selected. Tolls and tax collections have been explored in the past ' City-Parish President Joey Durel's proposed sales tax for road infrastructure is on the November ballot ' but Landry says more opportunities must be pursued.
Dan Juneau, president of the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry, one of the largest lobbies in the state, says readdressing the current phase-out of business taxes on equipment and debt are among his groups' top priorities for next year. "It would be nice if those taxes were accelerated, or even eliminated outright, but largely we just need to make sure they eventually come off the books," he says.
The state sales tax on manufacturing equipment has been evaporating slowly over the past two years, with 35 percent coming off in July. More will be deducted each year until 2010, when all of the tax will be eliminated. Even though it is in the process of being abolished, the tax still places Louisiana at a disadvantage against other southern states that don't apply anything, according to Juneau.
R. Charles Hodson Jr., state director of the National Federal of Independent Business, a nonprofit advocacy group with 6,000 members statewide, is pushing an effort to apply the equipment tax break to small businesses that rely on desktop computers and other common machinery. Doing so would send a symbolic message to an underrepresented constituency, argues Hodson.
"It's a fairly narrow band of equipment that can be used, and unless you're a huge manufacturer, you're really not getting any benefit," Hodson says. "I understand we need to be looking for that silver bullet, like landing a Mercedes plant, but let's not forget about our small businesses and those that are already here."
The groups being led by Juneau and Hodson are also considering asking lawmakers to accelerate the phase-out of the state's tax on corporate debt. The mechanism, which collects upwards of $120 million annually for the state, is being eliminated over a seven-year schedule beginning this year.
Dan S. BornÃ©, president of the Louisiana Chemical Association, says his membership's No. 1 issue for the coming year is eliminating the remaining 3.3 percent sales tax on the use of natural gas and electricity, the only levy of its kind in the nation. It was originally reduced from 3.8 percent during last November's special session, but BornÃ© says the job needs to be finished in 2007. "That impacts every business in the state that receives a utility bill," he says. "It also protects the petrochemical industry because we buy so much natural gas to keep generating power and electricity. We use natural gas the way a bakery shop uses flour, and that tax is eventually passed on to consumers."
Aside from the state's fiscal concerns, the biggest unknown next year will be how term limits ' during an election year ' will play out with all these issues. BornÃ© says the lure of early retirement, coupled with the need to get re-elected, might make for a perfect situation for business and industry.
"It's an election year like none other and the first of its kind," BornÃ© says. "We'll be cruising uncharted waters because there's no telling what an election year layered with term limits will have on public policy issues and whether they gain traction. But I don't think it'll be a year where lawmakers are looking to tax anybody, so we're safe from that for now."
School board members Mark Babineaux, Hunter Beasley and Tehmi Chassion can vote to fire Cooper — because we all know that’s exactly what they’ll do.
District 2 school board candidate Simon Mahan is hoping to unseat first-term incumbent and former Carencro Mayor Tommy Angelle in the Nov. 4 election.
District Attorney Mike Harson is showing his desperation by falsely attributing quotes to his opponent and blocking journalists from his social media.
The governor is traveling the country laying the groundwork for a possible 2016 presidential campaign, but his approval ratings at home hover well below 50 percent.
State District Judge Bob Downing extended the order and delayed a planned Wednesday hearing about a permanent injunction while negotiations continue between Attorney General Buddy Caldwell and the waste disposal site operator.
New Louisiana higher education commissioner Joseph Rallo will be paid more than his predecessor.
Elijah McGuire and Alonzo Harris each had four rushing touchdowns, and Louisiana-Lafayette rolled to 419 yards on the ground in a 55-40 victory over Arkansas State on Tuesday night.
Bill and Hillary Clinton are the validators-in-chief for Democrats struggling through a bleak campaign season in states where President Barack Obama is deeply unpopular.
President Barack Obama is turning to black radio listeners to plead for midterm votes, a targeted approach to drum up Democratic support at a time when many candidates don't want him around in person.
WaPo Watergate editor Ben Bradlee dies; Clintons stump for Dems; Liberians stranded and more national and international news for Wednesday, October 22, 2014.
Wednesday's Blogs from the Bog!
"I am extremely disheartened by the political machines that are attempting to hijack my efforts along with others that advocate for children."
Landrieu, who is fighting to keep her seat for a fourth term, said that Ebola is serious and precautions should be taken, but she accused Republicans of using the virus outbreak in West Africa to "create fear" here at home.
Law enforcement agencies are participating in a "Louisiana Heroin Summit," designed to address the recent rise in heroin use and drug-related deaths around the state.
State education officials are preparing to release performance scores for public schools and public school districts.
Saints coach Sean Payton is starting a new week by emphasizing, repeatedly, the many good things he noticed during New Orleans' latest loss.
We will be offering our recommendations on the constitutional amendments tomorrow.
The justices did not comment in leaving in place lower court rulings that dismissed the lawsuits against BP and other companies involved in the worst U.S. offshore oil spill.
White registration is down by 7,700 voters while black registration has shot up by 7,100 voters.
Even though it had been rumored for months, U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu finally pulled the trigger recently on a major campaign shakeup that moved control over to a few Big Easy insiders.
Louisiana's health department says it will seek law changes to stop billing sexual assault victims for exams and tests.
It wasn’t the historic slashes to higher ed funding or the ensuing tuition spikes that recently had LSU’s student body and faculty riled up in collective outrage.
Will $400 be enough for the re-election campaign of LPSB's Hunter Beasley to overcome two years of holding our school system hostage and hurting the education of our children all because of a personal dislike of the superintendent?
Saints tight end Jimmy Graham said Friday he expects his playing status in Detroit to be decided by coach Sean Payton on Sunday, shortly before the game.
Lawmakers have sidestepped a decision on whether they accept claims from Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration that the state closed last year's books with a nearly $179 million surplus.