The New Year brings with it a fresh start and opportunities to shed old habits and forge a new path to self-improvement. For many of us, that means going to the gym, eating healthier or saving more money.
But, what if we apply this same concept to government? Louisiana could certainly use some self-improvement. The most recent report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics showed that the number of unemployed people in the state increased by more than 11,000 over the past year, while neighboring states and the national economy continues to grow and create jobs at a steady pace.
So, why is Louisiana failing amidst a climate of success nationwide? Because, like a person who refuses to change their diet, our state’s status quo approach to governance isn’t yielding success. And just like the New Year gives us time to reflect and grow, a new legislative session provides opportunities for Louisiana to change. Combine that with dozens of new legislators and you have a great opportunity to address a fundamentally broken status quo.
With that in mind, the Pelican Institute team has put together the following list of 5 New Years Resolutions to change the state of Louisiana for the better.
- Budget Reform: For those of us who want to get our personal budget under control for the New Year, a good place to start is to examine last year’s spending habits. From there, we can trim the fat accordingly. Unfortunately for Louisiana lawmakers, this option doesn’t exist. The state legislature only has control over slightly more than 10 percent of the budget, and the rest is locked in due to funding formulas and the State Constitution. If Louisiana wants to stop governing from budget crisis to budget crisis, giving the legislature more control over the budget is an absolute must.
- Legal Reform: Something that certainly takes a big bite out of Louisiana families’ budgets are monthly car insurance payments, which are among the highest in the nation. But, the high payments aren’t simply a function of poor roads and drivers. It’s also in large part due to a legal climate that raises costs on everyone. Louisiana constantly ranks as the worst state for “judicial hellholes,” and citizens across the state are paying the price for this designation every month.
- Defend Criminal Justice Reforms: Louisiana has made great strides in fixing its broken criminal justice system over the past few years. Even so, it still ranks as having the highest prison population in the country. Yet, many continue to attack these critical reforms and attempt to roll them back at every turn. Undoing these reforms would be a costly mistake for our state, as they would break up families, increase the burden on taxpayers and make everyone less safe. We must protect these crucial reforms in 2020.
- Transparency: Louisiana took a small yet important step toward increasing government transparency in 2019. The launching of Inside the Vault with the Louisiana State Treasurer shows Louisiana citizens where much of their money is being spent, adding much-needed transparency to the state’s finances. But, there is still more to be done in terms of transparency, especially as it relates to Louisiana’s education, local government and court system spending.
- Rural Broadband: In order to compete in the 21st century, Louisiana needs to be a state where citizens can access the internet both reliably and affordably. This means expanding access to broadband by passing policies to lower the cost for deployment. But Louisiana can’t just limit its focus to fiber. The state must also allow for the deployment of a variety of technologies, which can connect the state of Louisiana to the wider world.
As 2020 gets underway and we all strive to make personal improvements in our lives, lets hope the Louisiana legislature will do the same for the people they represent.