State readying for change at the speed of Jindal

The special session of the state Legislature, which was convened to enact business tax cuts and to spend a $1.1 billion surplus wrapped up Friday with legislators passing nearly everything Gov. Jindal wanted.

That is a good thing, though state Sen. Butch Gautreaux of Morgan City feels otherwise.

The state has the surplus because the cost of gas and oil has risen rapidly and because of the federal dollars awash in the state’s economy after the hurricanes of 2005.

Legislators at the special session passed tax cuts favorable to business in the state, which seem relatively modest, though Jindal touted them as revolutionary-sounding during his several stops in Houma before and after his campaign for governor: Eliminating a 1 percent state sales tax on business utilities and accelerating the phase-out of the state sales tax on manufacturing equipment and the corporate franchise tax on debt (a degree in taxation law may be needed to understand the last one).

The tax cuts could cost the state an estimated $185 million over the next two budget years.

The spending part of the special session is what has to be of greatest interest to most public officials in the state: $530 million for road, bridge and port improvements and $300 million for coastal restoration and hurricane protection projects, among other items.

However, Sen. Gautreaux was quoted in an Associated Press article complaining that the pace of the special session was too rapid. In a previous interview, he expressed concern about the fleeting nature of this budget surplus, asserting that paying down the state debt with the surplus money possibly would have been a better move.

He could be correct, but we respectfully disagree. Because of the surplus, the state can afford the tax cuts at this time. The potential spur to business development in the state compensates for the loss in revenue. Admittedly, the hundreds of millions of dollars going to roads and the coast could be boondoggler paradise, but the needs justify the risk.