GNO, Inc. Legislative Priorities
As we prepare to enter the 2020 Legislative Session, we are facing many of the same challenges we’ve faced for several years now — a complicated tax structure, damaged roads, insufficient resources for education and an eroding coastline. The key difference this year is the composition of the Legislature, which has 52 new legislators, including 17 from the GNO region. GNO, Inc.’s legislative priorities focus on fixing the factors that make our business climate less competitive, which can mean everything from infrastructure to our tax climate.
As opposed to last year’s legislative session, this year’s session is general in nature, not fiscal. This means that there cannot be measures introduced that would authorize or increase a new or existing state tax, or legislation regarding tax credits, exclusions or deductions. With this in mind, GNO, Inc. is advocating for a number of actions for the 2020 legislative session. These include:
1. Improve tax structure to increase competiveness.
GNO, Inc. has long supported simplifying the state’s convoluted tax structure — Louisiana looks expensive while we collect relatively little compared to many states. GNO, Inc. has supported lowering and flattening personal income taxes by eliminating the state deduction for federal taxes. Louisiana is one of only three states with a 100 percent deduction. However, given the limited scope of this year’s session, introducing legislation to address this issue may be more challenging than during a fiscal session.
2. Curb Louisiana auto insurance sticker shock.
Louisiana has some of the highest auto insurance rates in the country. Car insurance is a regressive tax that hurts low-income individuals and working families disproportionally. It also hurts businesses, who are unable to find affordable rates because of the lack of commercial insurers in our state. While many factors contribute to our high premiums, one solution lies in attracting more auto insurance companies to our state by making our market more competitive. By aligning Louisiana’s policies with those of states that have more robust auto insurance markets, we can provide consumers with more choices and drive down rates.
3. Prioritize early childhood education.
Investments in quality early childhood education provide the opportunity to transform the next generation while benefitting the families and workforce of today. GNO, Inc. urges the Legislature to provide a greater and reliable funding stream for quality early childhood education and care, which is arguably the most efficient spend of an education dollar.
4. Find creative solutions to fix our roads and support modern transportation.
Whether it’s about safety, efficiency or economic development, Louisiana needs a renewed commitment to infrastructure. In the final weeks of 2019, a legislative transportation committee cleared the way for the state’s first public private partnership, a Belle Chasse tunnel replacement project in Plaquemines parish. With limited resources, this kind of innovative thinking is what Louisiana needs to make real improvements to our roads and bridges. Since a gas tax is not possible this session, finding alternative sources of revenue will be vital.
Beyond that, regional passenger rail between New Orleans and Baton Rouge is a viable solution to alleviating road traffic and elevating transportation options. This is a concept with widespread and overwhelming support throughout our region, and GNO, Inc. has continued to explore and advance this project through our work with the SoLA Super Region Committee. GNO, Inc. encourages our executive, legislative and parish leadership to work collaboratively on moving passenger rail forward in 2020.
5. Support and champion Louisiana’s coastal restoration efforts.
Louisiana has grappled with land loss since its inception, and as populations grow, economies evolve, and the environment continues to change at an increasingly rapid pace, the problem looms larger than ever. Implementation of the recommended strategies outlined in Louisiana’s Comprehensive Master Plan for a Sustainable Coast lessens risk and encourages growth. Louisiana also needs to uphold proactive leadership at the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority, capable of forging innovative partnerships across sectors, jurisdictions and party lines; and guided by a strong understanding of the full scope of the coastal challenge.
Our new cohort of legislators, coupled with Louisiana’s relative fiscal stability, provides a unique opportunity for progress this session and beyond. Rather than focusing on fixing the state’s finances, we can work towards creating a better legislative framework for Louisiana that results in a stronger economy and make Louisiana a model that other states want to follow.