Time to begin is now! Tuesday, Mar 24 2015
Jim Bob Moffett
Gambit Columnist/Attorney Clancy DuBos offers a suggestion to the leges on how to begin fixing the budget mess that they and Bobby Jindal created. See his suggestion here.
Clancy is no newcomer to fiscal reform. In 1987, Gambit was one of the earliest supporters of the efforts of the Louisiana Council for Fiscal Reform (“LCFR”) to rewrite the state’s tax code.
For those not familiar with the LCFR, it was the brainchild of Jim Bob Moffett, Chairman of Freeport-McMoRan Copper and Gold, a Fortune 500 company then located in New Orleans, and the Business Council of New Orleans, a group of about 50 CEOs of the largest companies in Louisiana that continues to support reform efforts in New Orleans and around the state.
At the time, Jim Bob (that’s what everyone calls him) was chairman of the Business Council. Together, they assembled some of the best minds in the state, with the exception of yours truly, to come up with a plan to not only revise the state tax code, but to get it passed. The Business Council wanted action, not another plan.
We spent a year traveling the state, selling the plan to the gubernatorial candidates and the leges. All of the gubernatorial candidates in the 1987 election signed onto the plan, as did most of the leges.
Jim Bob also put all the resources of Freeport at our disposal, which were substantial — beyond anything I had ever imagined.
Had our newly-elected governor, Buddy Roemer listened and called a special session as the first order of business, we could have easily passed the entire package. If you know Buddy, listening to advice from others is not one of his strong suits.
Later, we did pass a version of the LCFR Plan through the lege, but it was dependent upon the passage of a constitutional amendment. By then Roemer had aggravated so many leges and local officials that we lost a close one in the statewide referendum.
Rep. Tim Burns, an attorney and CPA, who at the time was an in-house counsel for Freeport and worked with the LCFR consultants putting the package together, recently explained the failure in more detail here.
In any case, LCFR and the Business Council kept plugging away, passing some parts of the tax code reform effort. Ironically, the current Inventory Tax Credit that Bobby Jindal wants to substantially reduce was one of the successes. But for the personal intervention of then–chairman of the Business Council John Laborde, Chairman and CEO of Tidewater, it would never have passed. Another major accomplishment was the Revenue Estimating Conference.
Finally, in 1996, when it was clear that Governor Mike Foster was not going to embrace our efforts, it was decided to put the LCFR on hold.
Recently, one of the former LCFR consultants reminded me that it was 28 years ago that we began the work of trying to make Louisiana an economically competitive state, with a plan that benefited all of the state – individuals as well as businesses.
The inspiration and knowledge I received from Jim Bob, the members of the Business Council and the LCFR consultants were the basis for the plan I suggested, which Clancy refers to in his column.
What little response I’ve gotten from the leges is that my suggestions are not “politically-doable.” Nothing is doable if one never tries, and the current leges haven’t.
Regardless, if we are to ever break the Huey P. Long 1930s plan for financing state and local government, it will require political courage. Otherwise we will continue to wallow in the cellar of the states.
Kudos to Clancy for coming up with a suggestion to begin the process in the 2015 Regular Session. My only regret is that I didn’t think of it.
All we need now is to find leges with the political courage to do the politically-undoable.
As prominent New Orleans attorney, member of the Business Council and friend, the late George Denègre, once advised: “The alternative is unacceptable.”
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