The nonpartisan Public Affairs Research Council of Louisiana is asking the Legislature to proceed with caution now that Gov. Bobby Jindal has abandoned his controversial and ill-fated plan to eliminate personal and corporate income taxes and replace the lost revenue with a sharp spike in the state income tax. PAR’s caveat to state lawmakers is based on Jindal’s continued fixation with burnishing his national creden, er, his insistence that the income taxes be repealed and that lawmakers nonetheless figure out some way to make it work in the short time frame of a two-month legislative session.

PAR released the following statement Monday evening in response to Jindal’s address opening the session:

The 2013 Legislative session got off to an uncertain start today as Governor Bobby Jindal focused his opening remarks solely on his request for lawmakers to repeal income taxes. All other major concerns facing the state, and all other aspects of tax reform that might be usefully pursued, seem to have been totally eclipsed by this one proposed initiative. Although the Governor said he had parked his tax swap proposal, the central element of his plan might still move forward. The governor made it clear that an income tax repeal is all he wants or expects of the Legislature this session. The affordability and wisdom of this plan was and still is a serious question. And the short session, already under way, leaves little time to invent and scrutinize a new, well-conceived plan. Administration officials spent months in a vigorous attempt to come up with a plan; to their credit they identified and accepted many of the fiscal challenges facing a revenue-neutral tax swap, and their work was all the harder as a result.

If lawmakers follow this path, they should do so in a manner that is fiscally responsible for the long term. That means tax cuts should be addressed squarely with spending cuts or replacement revenue. We should not make the dual empty promises of tax cuts and the continuation of the current level of public services while hoping that time and unpredictable events will solve our fiscal problems. That is a common complaint about the federal government and the way things have been done in Louisiana in the past.

PAR plans to play a constructive role in this debate by providing information about the problems in Louisiana’s tax structure and the various possible solutions.

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