Friday, March 19, 2010

Follow the logic

The Advocate has some really bad news for higher education. As reporter Jordan Blum writes, the Jindal administration has announced another $85 million in budget cuts that must be implemented this year.

And Jindal's commissioner of administration, Angelle Davis, predicts that there may be even more cuts coming because of declining tax revenues.

And why are tax revenues in decline?

One reason, of course, is the national economic crisis. The recession, which economists say is slowly ending, certainly dragged our economy down. But it's not the only reason.

Another reason for our situation is the orgy of tax breaks that two governors and successive legislatures indulged in over the past few years.

Not to sound like a broken record, but the unfortunate decision by lawmakers to curtail the Stelly plan's tax reforms have cost our state hundreds of millions of dollars that could be shoring up higher education right now.

The Stelly plan was done in by demagogues who falsely claimed that it broke a promise by raising taxes on higher income citizens. In actuality, Stelly worked exactly as it was supposed to. By cutting tax rates for the lowest income citizens, abolishing some regressive sales axes and increasing rates on higher-income earners, Stelly gave Louisiana a fairer, more progressive and more sustainable tax system. One, by the way, that significantly reduced our dependence on income from the volatile oil patch.

The best defense of the Stelly plan we've yet heard comes from the author himself, retired Republican Representative Vic Stelly of Lake Charles.

As Stelly wrote in this letter to The Advocate, his plan "provided a slowly growing revenue stream to cover inflation. That’s why the plan would be bringing in more today, eight years after passage, than it did in 2002."

So while Louisiana would certainly be feeling the pinch had we not so foolishly abandoned the most reasonable tax plan to come down the pike in many years, we might not be talking about such breathtaking cuts to our colleges and universities.

Which brings us to the final stop on this logic trail. Even in the face of massive cuts to education, Jindal is adamant about his "no taxes" pledge.

As this article in the Alexandria Town Talk confirms, Jindal will not seek more revenue, "No matter how much sacrifice is involved."

And it looks like higher education will be the sacrificial offering demanded by the gods of fiscal conservatism.

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