The voting booth looms large both this year and next for those in Louisiana industry and its many supporting and related enterprises, from chemical manufacturing to offshore services to equipment rental. Many are waiting to make hiring decisions, pull the trigger on capital investments or settle on long-term strategic plans until they know what policies—and what leaders—they can count on in Baton Rouge and in Washington when the dust settles in November 2016. In addition to the already-heated 2016 race for the White House, this fall in Louisiana will see important contests decided for governor, for dozens of legislative seats and for eight spots on the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education.
The industry and policy experts we consulted brought up a wide range of issues they are looking for clarity on as these votes approach: state budget problems, the role and structure of higher education, the role and posture of the EPA, the use of incentives to attract new industry to Louisiana, the value of ports and infrastructure, job creation, the judiciary environment, the tax burden on industry, and much more.
Based on the questions and ideas these experts suggested, 10/12 Industry Report developed 10 questions for the four major gubernatorial candidates in Louisiana that we think will help industry executives make the first important decision of this dual election cycle: Who should occupy the Governor’s Mansion in January 2016? The four candidates are Republicans Scott Angelle, Jay Dardenne and David Vitter, and Democrat John Bel Edwards. Here are their answers to these critical questions.
Every candidate for governor has said they will call a special session after taking office to deal with the state budget. What do you think is the primary reason for the governmental deficits we see today: too much spending or not enough revenue? If too much spending, what specific agencies or programs do you think should be reduced? If not enough revenue, what specific area of the economy do you recommend contribute more revenue? Businesses, individuals, or both?
Scott Angelle: I believe that Louisiana is in need of serious fiscal reform in order to eliminate our recurring deficit, and that wasteful spending must be assessed. I believe that each and every tax exemption and tax credit should be evaluated to see whether or not it is benefiting the state. In 1989, Gov. Roemer saw the need for a revenue estimating conference, known as the REC. It is now time for an ERC, an exemption review conference, to review all tax credits and exemptions for their economic impact and to provide the Legislature with the information needed to make sure taxpayers are getting what they’re paying for. If the exemption is growing the economy, creating jobs and strengthening our families, we should continue to support it. We need to avoid throwing the baby out with the bathwater. If the exemption is failing to accomplish those goals, we need to bring it back to the Legislature for reconsideration. These exemptions are a precious resource for our state. We cannot give away our taxpayers’ dollars if they are not producing a good return on our investment. To give away these dollars without ensuring, year after year, that they are producing results for the taxpayers is fiscally irresponsible. If we cut this spending, I do not believe we will have to cut spending to specific agencies.
Jay Dardenne: Our revenue estimates have been too high, resulting in mid-year budget cuts. We need to be more frugal on the front-end, and budget based on priorities. We need to look more carefully at tax credits, exemptions, exceptions and deductions. We must make certain we are funding effective programs and not rewarding inefficient ones by simply cutting across the board.
John Bel Edwards: As governor I would address structural budget problems, which are causing projected annual billion-dollar shortfalls for many years to come, by ending tax giveaways that aren’t producing for our economy, by growing our economy in a way that produces net new revenue, by accepting the federal taxes that we are paying back into Louisiana instead of allowing them to go to other states, and by never outsourcing Louisiana tax and fiscal policy to Grover Norquist or other out-of-state interests.
Outsourcing tax and fiscal policy to out-of-state interests like Grover Norquist has led Louisiana to continue tax giveaways (credits, rebates, exemptions and exclusions) that are not producing good return on investment for Louisiana taxpayers. In a special session I will build consensus on which portions of the $700 billion in giveaways should be capped, repealed or sunset. I believe the guidance in the recent study by Dr. Jim Richardson at LSU should drive the discussion about which “incentives” we should cap, repeal or sunset. Just like I have forged bipartisan coalitions in the Legislature during the last eight years as a member of the House of Representatives, I would bring all the affected stakeholders to the table to produce a compromise that allows us to fund the priorities of government.
I would also do as 14 Republican governors have done, and accept $16 billion of our taxes—taxes we pay no matter what—back into Louisiana over the next 10 years to expand Medicaid for working people who currently make too much to qualify for Medicaid, but either make too little to purchase health insurance or their employers don’t offer it. This is not a partisan issue. It makes good fiscal sense, and it’s also the right thing to do. It will keep our hospitals operating, our ERs open, and replace federal dollars for uncompensated care that are set to expire. It will also displace funds from health care funding that we can use in other parts of our budget, including higher education, so that we can end the trend of cuts and tuition increases.
David Vitter: In January of this year, I publicly announced that, as governor, I would immediately call a Special Legislative Session focused exclusively on stabilizing the budget through fundamental spending and tax reform. I’m glad that my opponents have now followed suit, although Jay Dardenne has said that he would only focus in that session on stop-gap measures for the current fiscal year, not fundamental or long-term reform.
I’ve laid out clear, detailed solutions—how I’ll lead that session to end Louisiana’s budget chaos once and for all—in my detailed plan, “Together, Louisiana Strong: Our Blueprint For Building A Brighter Future.” That’s at davidvitter.com.
We have important work to do on both the spending and tax sides of the equation.
On the spending side, we must remove protections and dedications from most spending categories to fully get at waste, fraud and spending we simply can’t afford. That’s essential to end the death by a thousand cuts that higher education faces annually because it is one of the few undedicated areas of spending. Spending for things like a California consultant to “assist students to learn valuable social skills … on their recess,” or a consultant to “coordinate … Golden Glove Boxing tournaments” is outrageous.
On the tax side, we must apply a sober cost-benefit analysis to all state tax credits, exemptions and deductions. We’ll keep those that boost the economy and repeal others. Wasteful tax credits like those for wealthy folks to buy solar panels are just government spending by another name.
What is the proper relationship between the five bodies (Board of Regents, LSU Board, Southern Board, LCTCS Board and the University of Louisiana Board) that govern postsecondary education in Louisiana? How would you recommend optimizing this relationship to assure proper funding for programs that meet the needs of Louisiana’s 21st-century workforce?
Angelle: These bodies must be given the ability to operate in a manner that makes sense for the specific universities they oversee. I do not believe these boards should be consolidated, as each board knows what is best for its university system.
I do believe that we must streamline communications between the boards to ensure the highest quality education for all Louisiana students.
Dardenne: As a state senator, I offered legislation that strengthened the role of the Board of Regents. They now need stronger oversight to coordinate the work of the other four management boards. We need to continue incentive policies such as the WISE Fund, which has resulted in better achievement and has directed course offerings toward jobs that actually exist in the real world. We must avoid duplication and utilize existing buildings and infrastructure instead of always building new campuses. The Workforce Investment Council (WIC) has done an outstanding job of developing lines of communication between the educational institutions and the private sector.
Edwards: Creating collaboration between these boards is a matter of leadership. I have a record of leadership, and the résumé to back it up. More information on my plans for higher ed and career and technical education is available here.
Vitter: In our plan “Together, Louisiana Strong,” there is a detailed chapter on “Stabilizing and Building Excellence in Higher Education” which addresses this question specifically.
As it states, I will convene a Commission on Streamlining and Building Excellence in Higher Education composed of representatives of the Board of Regents, the four public higher education systems, and civic and community leaders to develop and propose specific reforms in three areas:
• Giving greater authority to the Board of Regents in setting and achieving overall goals and priorities for Louisiana higher education.
• Properly allocating resources to four-year, two-year, skills training, and other programs based on clear goals and objective metrics.
• Reducing unnecessary duplication and inefficiencies in academic programs and the procurement of services. For instance, there are four public nursing programs in Shreveport-Bossier alone; while we need all of those in-demand nursing slots, we don’t need four different bureaucracies and sets of overhead involved.
Our transportation infrastructure needs continue to grow more desperate, with a backlog in basic road and bridge maintenance and many appeals for new projects to defuse chronic and escalating traffic problems. Which projects would you make the top priority, and how would you fund solutions for our infrastructure needs? Do you support an increase in the gas tax to help fund this work?
Angelle: I am determined to tackle our transportation problems head on by ensuring that we make expanding our roads and restoring our bridges a priority and by building toll roads and maintaining existing roads to ensure that motorists have a choice. We must also focus on restoring voters’ trust in funding transportation projects, by putting “trust” back in the Transportation Trust Fund and by unshackling local governments.
I strongly believe that building roads and bridges to alleviate congestion and ensure safety are our next great hurdles to economic development and job creation. Choking businesses with poor roads and bridges will only result in fewer jobs for hardworking families and make life more difficult for the mom and dad picking their child up from school each day or commuting to work in the morning. The fact is, traffic congestion and dangerous bridges affect us all equally.
It’s time that we put the trust back in the Transportation Trust Fund and keep our promise to the voters by making sure that every dollar we get for transportation projects goes directly toward just that and not paying for other areas of government.
My career in public service started at the bottom as a police juror, where we were responsible for getting potholes filled and widening local roads. I’m the only candidate in this race with that kind of local hands-on experience. You have my commitment to bring that same tenacity to the governor’s office where we’ll think big and act boldly to lead the conversation on this important issue.
I believe that when we invest in roads and ports we do more than move people and cargo from point A to point B; we create jobs. I am also prepared to lead the conversation on decentralizing DOTD and implementing a regional approach with opportunities tied to a vote of the people to develop 21st century infrastructure.
Dardenne:The huge backlog of road and bridge projects is the result of diverting money from the Transportation Trust Fund, and the failure to direct more capital outlay dollars to state highway projects. I will do so. Major long-term priorities are: the completion of the last stretch of I-49 North; the large remaining portion of I-49 South in Acadiana; the I-10 bridge in Baton Rouge; and the I-10 access to the anticipated new airport in New Orleans. I do not presently support an increase of the gas tax because this is dependent on several other factors, like what Congress does with transportation funding; how successful we are in re-directing state dollars to transportation; and the possibility of giving local governments the ability to tax gasoline.
Edwards: In order to address the nearly $12 billion backlog in transportation and infrastructure projects we must first restore trust to the Transportation Trust Fund. Nearly $60 million from the TTF is being used for purposes other than is intended. We cannot ask the people of Louisiana to pay more to invest in roads and bridges until we can demonstrate that we will use the money they dedicate to a specific purpose in the manner they intend. I am committed to doing that as governor. As governor, I would commit 25% of the Capital Outlay program toward transportation and infrastructure projects. That would increase spending on these projects by $75 million a year, and would draw down more in federal match so we can meet our obligations to invest in ports and roads.
Vitter: Last year, only 11% of Louisiana’s Transportation Trust Fund was spent on new highway construction and repair. Eleven percent! The rest went to other spending including rich pension plans, unrelated programs and the state police. That’s outrageous. You can’t ask the taxpayers to put more money into the bucket when there is a massive hole at the bottom of it.
I was the first candidate to announce that, as governor, I would immediately call a Special Legislative Session focused on fundamental spending and tax reform. And one of the four major areas that I will focus on in this special session will be strengthening the state Transportation Trust Fund and providing more protection for infrastructure spending—like ensuring that trust fund revenue sources such as the vehicle sales tax actually go into the trust fund rather than get hijacked for other, unrelated purposes.
Sometime after that initial special session, I also will lead in developing and proposing a high-priority highway building program to build vital projects on an expedited basis with specific proposed revenue attached to it.
In all of these efforts, we need to take the politics out of transportation project funding by developing a data-driven approach that does the greatest amount of good for motorists, not politicians and bureaucrats. That starts with focusing on areas that have the greatest need like Baton Rouge, certainly including the area of the Baton Rouge bridge and the need to close or move the Washington Street exit.
With oil prices lagging and unlikely to rebound to $100 anytime soon, what can state government do to support our energy industry and its thousands of jobs?
Angelle: State government has a duty and a responsibility to support the hardworking men and women who wake up early every morning, put on their hard hats and steel toe boots, kiss their families goodbye and set out to do the work of fueling America.
We can continue to support the energy industry by ensuring our state’s regulations don’t lead to strangulation. We must understand that these businesses can deploy their capital and choose to create jobs anywhere in the world; it’s our job to bring them to Louisiana through a balanced regulatory environment and a fair tax code.
In 2004, when I became Secretary of the Department of Natural Resources, I noticed the drilling rig count was up in Texas, up in Oklahoma, up in America, but down in Louisiana. This confirmed to me that people were increasing investment in the exploration business across America, but not in Louisiana. Only through hard work, improving policies and changing the culture of the way we operated DNR, did we experience a 100%-plus increase in the Louisiana-based drilling rig count from 2003 to 2010. That didn’t happen by good luck, it happened by good management.
Dardenne: One of the most important things to remember is that government does not create jobs—it merely creates the environment that spurs the growth of various industries, and the policies that develop the necessary workforce to meet employer needs. The state already offers incentives to attract more businesses to Louisiana. And while the energy industry is challenged by the lag in oil prices, we must support the industry by continuing to focus on long-term development of an educated science- and technology-focused workforce.
Edwards: Louisiana has 90% of the offshore service industry. Our current inventory rebate policy supports that industry because we do not tax warehouse on vessels. I would support continuing this policy, which creates a mechanism for funding local government, while also supporting the offshore service industry, which is a backbone of the Louisiana economy and a driver of well-paying jobs for Louisianians.
Vitter: Our energy sector represents enormous Louisiana riches—not just in natural resources, but in people, innovation, and know-how.
Growing up, I saw this first-hand through the eyes of my dad, who was chief of Gulf Production for Chevron. I see it today, fighting the Obama administration’s anti-oil and gas policies. As our governor, I’ll see us through to an even more vibrant energy future with his clear vision and determined leadership.
I’ll review all state tax policy that impacts energy with the goal of eliminating outdated or ineffective incentives and shifting to provisions that will maximize energy production, jobs, and economic activity. This will include reinstating the inactive well exemption, and exploring the revenue-neutral repeal of some complex energy exemptions in exchange for lower severance tax rates, making us more competitive with other producing states like Texas.
We must also review the state’s regulatory process at DNR, making it far more customer-friendly. We can expedite permits for energy production by eliminating red tape and developing a “one-stop shopping” model for the regulatory system.
I will also designate a portion of Incumbent Worker Training Program funds to be set aside and used for employees within certain distressed sectors at any given time and retooling LED’s Quality Jobs program to be a safety net for those hit by a significant economic downturn.
Finally, I’m the only candidate for governor who will address our legal climate, which is a clear obstacle to developing good jobs in the energy sector, as I outline below.
All of this is detailed in a specific chapter of our plan, entitled “Leading With Energy,” at davidvitter.com.
Business and industry have been calling for tort reform in Louisiana for decades to improve the business climate and make the state more appealing to outside investment. Do you think the Louisiana legal climate is in need of reform? If so, in what way?
Angelle: I do not support lowering the jury threshold because it will clog up Louisiana’s court system and create situations where our district attorneys and criminal justice system cannot handle criminal cases quickly. While the right to access courts is guaranteed by our constitution, I will support efforts to reduce frivolous claims that only serve to choke the system and delay justice.
Dardenne: For years as a state senator, I introduced legislation to lower the jury trial threshold to $25,000. I will support doing so as governor.
Edwards: Reform connotes improvement. If there is an area where we can improve the civil justice system, I will support it.
Vitter: Our state needs significant tort reform. And I am clearly the only candidate for governor who has said that litigation reform will be a real priority.
According to the U.S. Chamber’s Institute for Legal Reform, Louisiana comes in at 49th among all 50 states in terms of the lawsuit climate.
One area I’ll focus on in particular is legacy lawsuits. These lawsuits are strongly and negatively correlated with Louisiana drilling activity. Over the past eight years the economic impacts of the cumulative legacy-induced litigation alone can be said to have led to the reduction of close to $10.5 billion in Louisiana economic output and over 30,000 lost employment opportunities.
I’ll fight for key reforms like guaranteeing the full right to trial by jury, stopping judge-shopping and preventing lawyers from raising unlimited campaign funds for judges they practice before.
I’ll also oppose unfair lawsuits against energy producers for activity in the often distant past where they followed all applicable rules and regulations.
What are the proper roles of the EPA and the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality in their regulatory relationships with industry? Would you support additional state general fund monies for LDEQ? How would your administration respond if the EPA continued to move forward with plans for lower ozone standards?
Angelle: EPA and LDEQ have an integral role in ensuring that Louisiana’s unique landscape is preserved for future generations. Our state is blessed with some of the best hunting and fishing in the world, and yet we still have a robust and thriving oil and gas and manufacturing industry. Often we see EPA regulations that have led to strangulation here in Louisiana.
I’ve always believed that government is best when it comes from the bottom up, not the top down. Sadly, Washington doesn’t see it that way. The federal bureaucrats at the EPA have continued to attack Louisiana’s energy industry through ridiculous regulations.
The EPA has attempted to levy burdensome regulations on the states to force compliance with their anti-energy agenda. The current administration has gone above and beyond to put great restraints on the oil and gas industry. The recently announced ozone rules are yet another example of the EPA’s attempts to regulate Louisiana’s growing energy industry into obscurity.
Dardenne: The EPA and the LDEQ play an important role in keeping our beautiful state safe and our citizens healthy. However, there’s a delicate balance between preserving our environment and doing so to the extreme detriment of the industries that provide jobs to hundreds of thousands of our citizens. I do not support increasing general fund money for LDEQ, and would strongly oppose the EPA’s plans for lower ozone standards.
Edwards: DEQ should be self-funded through revenues they generate the same way Wildlife and Fisheries is funded. While no governor has control over the EPA, I will partner with stakeholders to address EPA regulations appropriately, in a way that responds to the needs of business and works to protect our environment.
Vitter: Environmental regulators at the federal and state levels absolutely need to maintain a transparent, open-door policy. This is hardly ever the case in Washington, D.C., where EPA regularly shuts out or ignores the positions and issue-area expertise of the industries that are being regulated.
The president’s so-called “Clean Power Plan” is a perfect example of the administration and EPA deciding to ignore industry. As governor, I will not submit a plan to ensure Louisiana’s compliance with such a clear overreach of federal authority. We must just say “no” to federal overreach and big cost increases on behalf of ratepayers and businesses in our state.
Another such example is with the forthcoming standards to reduce ground-level ozone. Any further reductions in the ozone standard will be a major economic hit to communities across Louisiana, starting with Baton Rouge.
Instead of the present federal approach, regulatory agencies at the state and federal levels need transparent, open-door policies where regulators and industry work together and communicate to achieve workable solutions that balance jobs and the economy with public health and the environment. When we impose regulations that are harmful to industry, it’s people—workers, their families and their communities—who are harmed.
I will also attack environmental overregulation at the federal level by pursuing an aggressive litigation strategy with other states to block overreaching federal regulations that would have disastrous impacts on our state’s economy.
A major state focus over the last few years has been cultivating international commerce opportunities, including foreign direct investment (e.g., Benteler, CGI, Sasol), increased trade and port infrastructure investments. Would international commerce be a priority for you and, if so, what would you do to support or pursue it? Do you believe it is valuable for the governor to travel abroad to cultivate economic development?
Angelle: Yes, international commerce would be a priority for my administration. In order to pursue this I would continue to encourage Louisiana Economic Development to recruit international businesses to invest in our state. Additionally, I would ensure that an LED staff member had experience with international industry and trade relations.
I also believe that the governor must be able to travel abroad to cultivate economic development relationships when necessary. This would help to maintain and cultivate our business climate here in Louisiana. Louisiana’s industries are booming and growing, and it is up to the governor to continue to foster and grow those relations.
Dardenne: Yes. I’ve spent my time as lieutenant governor leaving the state only to draw more people and industries into Louisiana. As governor, I would do the same. Growing international investment in Louisiana is critical for port infrastructure and identifying Louisiana as a place that welcomes foreign investment. Recent legislation helps put an emphasis on the Louisiana port system, and I will appoint an aggressive point person to the newly established position in DOTD. I support international commerce because I support growing our Louisiana economy. I’ve led the state’s tourism efforts to three record-breaking years in a row, including the largest percentage increase in international visitation in the country. That’s important because those international visitors are potential investors in Louisiana.
Edwards: Attracting new business to Lousiana would be a priority in my administration. The next governor must be able to advertise improved port and transportation infrastructure investment if and when he or she goes abroad to cultivate economic development. If we want our state to thrive, increased port investment is not optional. In the global market we must be able to accommodate the need to move products, crops and technology (especially for oil and gas exploration). Before we can ask the people of Louisiana to cover more of the cost for transportation and infrastructure investments we must restore trust to the Transportation Trust Fund. As governor, I would commit 25% of the Capital Outlay program towards transportation and infrastructure projects. That would increase spending on these projects by $75 million a year, and would draw down more in federal match so we can meet our obligations to invest in ports and roads.
Investing in a skilled workforce can also help us be competitive in the global workforce. We must focus on community and technical colleges with state support for operating expenses. Shiny new buildings without operational money are useless. I will partner with business and industry to identify the knowledge and skills needed for the high-demand jobs and develop programs and curriculum to ensure success. I will prioritize the WISE fund and fund it with recurring state general fund dollars. I will enhance the FastStart program with more state funding because it has a proven record of success. And of course ending the trend that has nearly doubled tuition since Bobby Jindal took office is essential to all higher education institutions and to the continued availability of highly educated, skilled workers that are needed to attract businesses to Louisiana in the global market.
Vitter: Absolutely. International commerce, ports and trade will be a major economic development priority of mine as governor.
Louisiana has 2,800 miles of waterways that support 31 deep-draft, coastal and inland ports. Five of those ports rank in our nation’s top 15 ports, moving over 500 million tons of goods annually. As governor, I will ensure that the new commissioner of multimodal commerce under the current reorganization plan at DOTD is an experienced leader from the port and maritime sector who has direct access to me as governor. He or she will be tasked with developing and then implementing a comprehensive, actionable statewide plan for delivering multimodal and maritime projects, including the deepening of the Lower Mississippi River to accommodate post-Panamax vessels.
I will also lead efforts to increase our investment in all types of infrastructure, including port and waterway infrastructure, by greatly strengthening the state Transportation Trust Fund and providing more protection for infrastructure spending.
Lastly, I will lead a similar reorganization of the Louisiana Department of Economic Development to ensure that ports and maritime are given the ranking and recognition the sector deserves in terms of economic development potential. This could be accomplished with a specific undersecretary who is focused on the sector, like the commissioner at DOTD.
LED has said that the most common reason we lose a manufacturing project today is that we now have more companies interested in investing here than we have sites available quickly enough to meet their needs. What would you do to build a bigger inventory of development-ready sites in order for us to attract more economic development projects?
Angelle: In order to build a bigger inventory of development-ready sites, we must be willing to take steps to evaluate and measure our progress in this area. First, we have to assess what is already available and see what can be done to make these areas more advantageous to business development. Second, we need to gather industry leaders to see why those sites that have been passed over as potential options were considered unsatisfactory. Once we know how to utilize the current sites that we have, then we can begin to look at developing more locations with the features that are attractive to these businesses.
Dardenne: LED already focuses on pre-certifying qualified industrial sites that are 180-day development ready. We need to continue this pre-certification project, but also pre-certify the right types of sites to ensure that we have sought-after locations that fit the needs of industries.
Edwards: I would ensure good leadership at LED to prioritize those things that matter most to those looking to do business in Louisiana and to ensure that the incentives we offer businesses get the best return on investment for Louisiana taxpayers.
Vitter: Yes, I will absolutely prioritize site-ready development to make sure that we don’t lose out on any more opportunities for job growth than we already have. In fact, I’m the only candidate for governor to lay out a detailed plan for job creation and economic development that directly answers this very question. Our plan, published months ago, includes directing Louisiana Economic Development to partner with local authorities and private landowners to develop and market key sites in each region of the state—like the Avondale site in southeast Louisiana—to attract major manufacturing and other projects, among others.
Strong leadership from the governor and the LED secretary coupled with policies that reverse Louisiana’s anti-business litigation climate, expand skills training opportunities, and invest in high-priority infrastructure are the only way to secure megaprojects. As governor, I’m committed to doing all of these things.
Louisiana has roughly $7 billion in state tax exemptions, split roughly 50/50 between individuals/families and businesses. Only about 3%-5% of that total is associated with economic development incentives. Do you think we should substantially reduce the number of tax exemptions in Louisiana? If so, where would you focus the cuts, and would you also reduce rates to keep the changes revenue neutral or instead use tax exemption cuts to increase revenues for state priorities?
Angelle: As I said previously, I believe that each and every tax exemption and tax credit should be evaluated to see whether it is benefiting the state.
In 1989, Gov. Roemer saw the need for a revenue estimating conference, known as the REC. It is now time for an ERC, an exemption review conference, to review all tax credits and exemptions for their economic impact and to provide the Legislature with the information needed to make sure taxpayers are getting what they’re paying for.
If the exemption is growing the economy, creating jobs and strengthening our families, we should continue to support it. If the exemption is failing to accomplish those goals, we need to bring it back to the Legislature for reconsideration.
Dardenne: I don’t believe in automatically reducing the number of tax exemptions, but I do believe in making sure that all exemptions, exceptions and credits are evaluated and prioritized. We must categorically and periodically review these credits and continue the ones that provide the greatest benefit to the state, particularly in the form of job creation. I favor reducing personal and corporate tax rates, along with sensible reduction or abolition of exemptions, exceptions and credits
Edwards: See Question 1 answer above.
Vitter: As I mentioned in my response to Question 1, I was the first candidate to announce that I will immediately call a Special Legislative Session to tackle wholesale budget and tax reform. That starts with taking a hard look at all state tax credits, exemptions and deductions, and conducting a sober cost-benefit analysis to determine which are worthy of taxpayer support and which are not.
There will be plenty of these provisions that don’t make the grade; I’ll make sure we don’t waste another penny on them. One clear example is the wind and solar tax credit, which was originally estimated to cost taxpayers $500,000 but cost over $60 million in 2014 alone.
Because we have such a bloated tax giveaway and spending structure, I believe that the two end goals in your question are both attainable. If the Legislature is willing to go far enough with structural tax and spending reform, we can actually reduce some rates once the budget is stabilized and meet the state’s revenue demands at the same time. In fact, by reducing those rates and spurring job growth, we can produce more state revenue than we would otherwise. I am committed to doing that, and I believe that this is a critical moment of opportunity to do just that.
Louisiana has an impressive record in economic development “wins” spread across a variety of industries over the past six years, but if we don’t continue our efforts, we could see that momentum falter. What will you do to build on our state’s recent progress in economic development and job creation?
Angelle: Here in Louisiana, we have seen tremendous economic growth. Companies are investing in Louisiana and this has created a major job market.
Because of that growth, we have an incredible opportunity with respect to workforce development right in front of us. Our workforce needs in this state represent our greatest opportunity to reinvent ourselves in a powerful way.
I firmly believe that a good life starts with a good job.
But in order to get that good job and be successful in the workforce our discussion on economic growth boils down to one key factor: education. Creating jobs and growing our economy can only happen if we make higher education a priority again.
Not only focusing on our four-year universities, but community colleges and technical colleges. Sixty percent of our jobs created over the next decade will need more than a high school diploma, but less than a four-year degree.
We also have the opportunity to provide for 1.5 million work-aged adults who have no degree and no certification. That’s why, as governor, I will scale up technical training to increase our number of skilled workers.
We have to give those people the opportunity to develop the skills Louisiana needs. I’m not talking about a traditional school setting where you go to school for six months or a year at a time.
We have to create a system that puts training on steroids, whether that is delivered through 7 on 7 off, weekends or work nights. We need to use any innovative idea to accommodate those who are unemployed or underemployed.
Finally, we must also strengthen our universities. We cannot afford to further decimate higher education here in Louisiana. If we’re going to continue to compete and educate the best and the brightest here at home, we must have an excellent higher education system. Because if our students do not have the opportunity to receive a quality education in their career field of choice here at home, they are going to leave our great state to pursue their dreams elsewhere. We must make important changes to reform our state and deliver top-quality education to all students.
Dardenne: The most logical way of continuing to grow Louisiana’s economy is by creating a business-friendly environment to grow existing industries and to attract new companies. I’ve already discussed expansion of pre-certifying LED sites and maximizing the efficiency of our credit programs, but this also comes in the form of raising the standards of education.
Industries might come to Louisiana because of our business-friendly environment, but they’ll leave if they aren’t able to find the educated and skilled workforce that they need to succeed here. We need to champion high standards starting in our elementary and secondary schools, and including our technical college and university systems. Education is the lifeblood of opportunity. Which is why we need to ensure that our children are prepared to tackle the challenges of the 21st century and are properly trained for the career opportunities that will continue to increase.
Edwards: One of the biggest economic development improvements in recent history is a product of cheap natural gas and accompanying technology that has allowed us to harness this resource. Business should not be overburdened by government bureaucracy as it develops new jobs. However, when we incentivize business with tax breaks we should make sure that businesses are accountable to taxpayers and that we ensure compliance with oversight so we can demonstrate to taxpayers that businesses are keeping up their end of the deal. As we continue to produce high-paying jobs we must work to train Louisiana’s sons and daughters to fill those jobs so that we get the best return on investment.
Vitter: In my plan, “Together, Louisiana Strong,” I’ve laid out detailed proposals to further economic development and to build on those gains made over the past several years.
Let me be crystal clear in saying that we will keep pursuing new projects and relocations. I’ll appoint an LED secretary who has a proven track record securing private sector investment and who is relentless in his or her pursuit of new companies willing to call Louisiana “home.” As governor, I will take a more pro-active role by becoming more personally involved in these efforts to locate companies here.
However, I also believe that we are moving into a second phase of economic development that will demand even greater vision and leadership from the governor to make these gains permanent. This new phase is defined by capacity—or our current lack thereof—both in the realms of infrastructure and job skills. We now have a capacity crisis in Louisiana in both of these areas, and businesses are watching and waiting to see how we will address them in the coming years. My plan “Together, Louisiana Strong” addresses both areas in two distinct chapters and dozens of detailed proposals.
I’ve addressed infrastructure issues in some detail above, so let me focus on the desperate need to dramatically build our skills training capacity.
Businesses want to know that state government is investing in its own citizens to provide relevant, state-of-the-art job training so they can hit the ground running with new hires. However, my own conversations around this state with business owners confirm a striking, recent statistic: more than a third of Louisiana employers cite an inability to find qualified, skilled or experienced applicants as the greatest difficulty in filling job openings. I’ve presented strong solutions to remedy this issue: 1) maximizing TOPS Tech to put more career training opportunities within reach of Louisiana students; 2) moving more workforce training programs and courses online and during weekends to better serve working families; 3) accelerating the JumpStart program so that high school students can begin job training and gain valuable workplace experience before they graduate high school; and more. These and many other policy solutions are part of my chapter entitled “Growing Jobs” that describes how we can gain the trust of relocating businesses to provide families with great skills training to match great paying jobs.