Stephen Waguespack, President and CEO of LABI (Louisiana Association of Business and Industry) spoke to members of the Natchitoches Area Chamber of Commerce at its monthly luncheon April 10.
2019 is a huge year for Louisiana for a number of reasons, according to Waguespack. See some of his talking points below:
Without a doubt, due to term limits and the seriousness of our state’s challenges, 2019 is an enormous year in Louisiana’s electoral history. This fall, statewide elections will be held to vote on elected officials at all levels. The Governor’s race is up, along with more than 60 open legislative seats, creating a level of opportunity and vulnerability we haven’t seen in quite some time. LABI is touring the state, alerting people from all walks of life about the importance of getting seriously involved at all levels in shaping the future of our state – and the relative ease it takes to do so.
Louisiana’s growth rate is lower compared to other states. It comes as no surprise that the state’s unemployment rates are some of the highest in the nation and workforce participation rates are the lowest they have been since the 1970s.
Industrial Tax Exemption Program (ITEP)-
LABI strongly supports a robust Industrial Tax Exemption Program to help overcome persistent challenges facing Louisiana employers and to bring high-wage jobs and opportunity to Louisiana families. Manufacturers in Louisiana employ more than 130,000 people, which is nearly seven percent of the state’s workforce. The average annual compensation for manufacturing workers in Louisiana is $87,212 – more than double the state average of $41,587.
Since the 1920’s, the State Capitol has been too powerful. That must change. The subsidies must shrink, and taxation should stay local as much as possible. The size of state government must shrink, and local governments should step up to be more solution oriented. State agencies and many of the services they provide must be combined to be more efficient and affordable. More of these state services must depend on technology rather than buildings, people, bureaucracies and pensions to deliver them. Personal responsibility based in local control must become the new mantra instead of every man a king, compliments of the state.
According to a recent study by the PEW Foundation, the percentage of Medicaid funding has roughly doubled since 2000, more than any other state during that time. The Louisiana Legislative Auditor has testified that up to 25 percent of adult Medicaid recipients’ income does not match their tax records, indicating they may not be eligible for the program. People who qualify and warrant assistance should receive it, but those cheating the system must be stopped.
Spending is a contributor to the deficit in the state’s budget. In the years when tax collections declined, state government spending did not decrease proportionally. Instead, temporary mechanisms and stop-gap measures were taken to generally maintain the size and services of state government. Louisiana spends an estimated $5,577 per person every year, ranking No. 16 nationally according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Louisiana’s local government also spends an average of $4,931 per person every year, ranking No. 13 nationally. Taken together, Louisiana’s state and local government spends an amount equivalent to roughly 20 percent of the state’s GDP every year.
Lawsuits and Insurance Rates-
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce Institute for Legal Reform ranked Louisiana 50th in the nation for its legal reputation. Legislation introduced and amended in the Transportation Committee would simply allow a judge to inform a jury whether a driver was wearing a seat belt when he/she files a personal injury lawsuit as a result of a car accident. Current Louisiana law bans this evidence from being discussed in civil trials, a provision known as a “seat belt gag order.” Louisiana’s car insurance rates are second highest in the nation at an average annual premium cost of $2,225, compared to the national average of $1,427. The reasons are many, but a major factor are state laws that encourage litigation and “have a dramatic and negative impact on Louisiana’s auto insurance market, and result in decreased competition due to an insurer’s unwillingness to compete for business in the state,” according to the Louisiana Property and Casualty Insurance Commission.