Want to fix the economic chaos plaguing Louisiana since the 1983 oil and gas crisis? Easy:
Abandon the Huey Long model of government, where all revenue flows to the state, then trickles back to communities.
Return many dedicated state revenues to the discretionary fund.
Reform Medicaid and the unaffordable state pension system.
So says Stephen Waguespack, president & CEO of the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry, who joined One Acadiana business, government, and civic leaders Tuesday to discuss Louisiana’s “fiscal cliff” and provide insights on the 2018 regular legislation session.
Waguespack said it might take a special session before legislators make a dent in the state's looming $1 billion shortfall.
"It's bumper cars in the state capital right now, and no wants to take the wheel," Waquespack said.
"In business, you have to sit down and whiteboard your problems and come up with the solution. In government you can walk away; all you need is a catchy press release."
During a 90-minute session on topics ranging from competition from Texas to why business owners should consider running for office, Waguespack said if business owners don't talk about taxation and spending reform, "it won't happen."
Texas, he said, won't always hire from Louisiana.
"Texas is going to figure out how to make that widget, how to fix that valve, too. Someone will open a new plant in Plano and say 'Thanks very much, but we got this.' "
Waguespack said Louisiana needs more fiscal transparency to force government reform. He praised ohiocheckbook.com, a searchable website of individual state expenses going back to 2008.
The site details more than $408 billion in state spending from 2008 to 2014, comprising about 112 million individual transactions and 3.9 billion pieces of distinct spending information, the Cincinnati Enquirer reported. It's equipped to conduct what the office terms "Google-style searches" — by keyword, agency, elected official, spending category or vendor, among other parameters.
In the absence of consistent fiscal leadership from Baton Rouge, Waguespack encouraged business owners to consider running for public office.
"You are just as qualified as anyone in the legislature to make policy," he said.
"We have a political director who can talk to you about how the political process works, the impact on your family, on your business.
"We'll hold your hand through the whole thing," said Waguespack, who was former Gov. Bobby Jindal's first-term chief of staff. "We need real working people in the legislature."
The 2018 LABI Legislative Outlook Breakfast, presented by Allen & Gooch law firm at the Picard Center, focused on how One Acadiana and LABI are aligned to advocate for fostering economic growth in Louisiana.