Our Views: A special legislative session, for what?

The “commitment” of leading candidates for governor to call an urgent special session next year on state finances is underwhelming, and voters deserve to hear a great deal more in the way of credible policies that the candidates would actually pursue if elected in the fall.

 The candidate with the most experience in the Legislature, Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne, made plain that the promise of a special session isn’t a meaningful response to the budget crisis engulfing the State Capitol.

“You will see whoever is governor early next year calling a special session,” Dardenne predicted at a panel discussion sponsored by small-business groups in Baton Rouge.

This is a field replete with experience in government, state, federal and local. And the candidates — Dardenne, state Rep. John Bel Edwards, Public Service Commissioner Scott Angelle and U.S. Sen. David Vitter — are eager to contrast themselves with the current administration.

With Gov. Bobby Jindal leaving office because of term limits, the governor who has run the budget into a ditch is an easy target.

For example, none of the four candidates backed Jindal’s proposal to roll back the state’s inventory tax credit program. For good reason: The Jindal plan would leave the inventory tax on the books, so companies would pay it to local government and not receive the long-standing dollar-for-dollar credit.

That’s not a good deal for businesses, a powerful lobby at the State Capitol. But that position by the candidates does not give a substantial answer to where the money will come from to substitute in the budget for Jindal’s proposal, which is to use much of the tax credit savings to avoid deep cuts in higher education.

We are not trying to be supercritical here. These are candidates who want to avoid offending powerful interests and also don’t want to be tagged as tax-raisers in the campaign, even if it is practically inevitable that some revenue will have to be raised somehow.

The candidates want to sound as courageous as possible without committing to anything. They’re good at that, and some of these statements are sensible. Vitter told the small-business forum that every tax credit and exemption ought to be analyzed for its cost-effectiveness.

It’s just as true what Edwards said: “There are no more Band-Aids in the (budget) first aid kit. It demands a structural fix. That’s what we have to do.”

“Something needs to be fixed,” Angelle added, and he’s right, too.


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