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Solve the problem; fix the budget

by David Specht

As I was perusing Facebook Thursday morning, I saw a photo of a scruffy-faced State Rep. Gene Reynolds, D- Minden. The caption read, “This is my fix the budget beard, I will not shave until we fix this problem!!!!”

During my last six weeks or so of being the editor of the Press-Herald, I’ve had the opportunity to follow stories about the budget and the lack of cooperation regarding it.

The amount of political posturing on all sides of this issue is absolutely sickening.

Reynolds has been one of the few “voices of reason” throughout this process. We all should be thankful for his commitment to finding real solutions, regardless of whether the solution s popular or not.

Short of a constitutional convention — and readers already know my stance on that — what can be done?

On the revenue side, the so-called “clean penny” could be renewed. However, Gov. John Bel Edwards is having none of that.

“It disproportionately penalizes the most vulnerable citizens. It’s regressive in nature, but from an economic perspective, it doesn’t align with where Louisiana’s economy is going,” Edwards spokesman Richard Carbo said in a statement.

According to the Associated Press, Edwards wants to permanently remove exemptions for purchases that usually aren’t subject to sales tax, and to extend the permanent 4 percent state sales tax to services, such as cable television and online streaming services.

Of course that flies in the face of anti-tax members of the legislature who believe the problem lies on the spending side of the ledger.

Which brings us back to the problem of constitutionally protected items in the budget. Does the state spend too much money? What government doesn’t? But how do you fix it when your hands are tied? No longer can education and healthcare bear the burden alone.

Meanwhile, Washington continues to raise the debt ceiling while conservatives cheer — but that is a different column for a different day.

In Louisiana, we must put ourselves in the position to not only balance the budget, but to do some things to grow our economy, or at least not hinder growth. Those things won’t happen until Louisiana gets its financial house in order.

It’s time for politicians in Louisiana to put party, politics, and personal preferences aside. It’s time to do what they were elected to do, act on our behalf in the best interest of all. While many may scream, holler, and complain, if the final result moves our state forward, then the right decision was made.

Constitutional convention. Fewer exemptions from sales taxes. Downsizing departments. It doesn’t matter which paths are chosen — someone is always going to object. True public servants understand how to make tough calls in the best interest of all, not just a few.

It’s my hope that Reynolds’s scruff face doesn’t turn into a full beard before this problem is solved. There is just too much at stake.

David Specht is editor and publisher of the Minden Press-Herald.

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