As Louisiana lawmakers continue to debate how to solve the so-called “Fiscal Cliff” (to get up to speed on all the facts, be sure to check out our Citizen’s Guide to the Fiscal Cliff!), the threat of a February special legislative session looms large. Proponents of tax increases are pushing hard for this session, and taxpayers should be wary.

In his latest column, Pelican Institute CEO Daniel Erspamer advises Louisianans not to buy into the hype and to resist the call to sprint headlong into a tax-raising special session.

Louisiana is facing some serious fiscal problems that require thoughtful, responsible action. And along the way, taxpayers deserve to be in the know.

Here is a list of questions that must be answered before lawmakers can finalize a budget or even consider the necessity and timing of a special session:

  • What is the actual projected budget gap between anticipated revenue and last year’s expense budget?
  • What will the result of federal tax reform be on the state’s tax collection? Estimates have ranged from $200 million to $300 million (or more) in increased revenue, but we don’t yet have a good grasp on that answer.
  • What effect will a mix of the embers of a growing state economy (spurred, in part, by the aforementioned federal tax reform) and rising oil prices have on projected state revenue for the coming fiscal year?
  • What are the details associated with the taxes the Governor has proposed raising, and what impact will they have on jobs and the economy? There are still no bill authors or fiscal notes assigned to any of the Governor’s December tax proposals.

It’s true, a great deal lies in the balance. Many important decisions will be made, and they should be made as soon as it makes sense to do so. But there’s a difference between rushing and taking decisive action. Sprinting headlong into an ill-advised special session would be a mistake.

It’s unconscionable that any lawmaker would be willing to come back to taxpayers to ask for more money before he or she has done everything possible to prioritize government programs, tighten up excess where possible, and, yes, make some hard decisions about what we can and can’t afford.

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