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LABI CEO: With Louisiana back where it started on budget, maybe it’s time for a new constitution?


April 30, 2018

Here we go again. The governor and Legislature, after months of negotiations on how to fund priorities like health care and education, find themselves with roughly the same bad choices they always seem to face. Which will they pick this time around? Bad tax policy, bad budget policy, or a combination of both? We will soon find out since yet another special session appears to loom in a few weeks.

Frustration is mounting, and tensions are running high both inside and outside the state Capitol, as people across the state are growing weary of this annual exercise. Angry posts on social media and heated rhetoric from elected officials and a long list of commentators all seem focused more on who to blame than what to do.

It’s time to fix this problem once and for all and to do it in a way that works for the long haul. It’s time for a new constitution. 

Louisiana’s constitution, the result of a 1973 convention held during an era of oil and gas surplus, has been amended 186 times in 44 years. In comparison, the U.S. Constitution has been amended only 27 times in 231 years. 

This document has become a straightjacket that wraps around our elected officials and limits their ability to embrace sensible solutions. Our constitution locks up much of our state budget to politically connected entities and protects overlapping boards and bureaucracies from reforms. It guarantees funding for a chosen few and designates the state capitol as the unquestioned kingmaker to everything that happens in our great state. It relegates most local governments to the role of dependent children with good intentions who are forced year after year to run to Baton Rouge and beg for funding. 

This has been Louisiana’s model for at least 100 years ... and it always will be, no matter who is in charge, until we change our constitution. 

In past years, talk of a new Constitutional Convention has been just that — whispers and "if-onlys." But now, momentum is building to the point of a viable bill moving through the Legislature to call that convention — one with a limited scope of fiscal and structural changes, elected delegates without a guaranteed seat for special interests and a realistic shot at getting it right. 

We urge legislators to move House Bill 500 forward and truly put this process in the hands of the people.

 

Stephen Waguespack

President and CEO, Louisiana Association of Business and Industry

Baton Rouge