|Bishop Morris Thompson|
|Bishop Jacob Owensby|
The Rt. Rev. Jacob W. Owensby, PhD, DD, Bishop, Episcopal Diocese of Western Louisiana
Bishop Charles E. Jenkins, Retired Bishop, Episcopal Diocese of Louisiana
Bishop James B. Brown, Retired Bishop, Episcopal Diocese of Louisiana
|Bishop Charles Jenkins|
March 18th, 2013
The Honorable Bobby Jindal, Governor
P. O. Box 94004
Baton Rouge, LA 70804-9004
Dear Governor Jindal,
We, the undersigned members of the Louisiana Clergy, are writing to express our deep concern about the tax proposal you are proposing for the upcoming legislative session.
|Bishop James B. Brown|
Our concerns about the proposed tax plan are as follows.
First, we are concerned that Louisiana already has one of the most regressive tax systems in the nation, putting a disproportionately high burden on low and moderate income families. Currently, families earning minimum wage (less than $16,000 per year) pay 10.6% of their income in state and local taxes; the average Louisiana family pays 10.1% of its income in taxes; while the wealthiest Louisiana families (earning over $1 million per year) pay only 4.6% of their income in state and local taxes. That is unacceptable, as a starting point.
Second, we are concerned that the reason we have such an unfair and regressive tax structure is our State's heavy reliance on the sales tax. It is universally recognized that sales taxes create a disproportionate burden on poor and moderate-income families, who spend nearly all they earn. Louisiana already has the 3rd highest sales tax rate in the nation.
Third, we are concerned that your tax plan seeks to increase our state's sales tax rates even further. Any increase in the sales tax would deepen the root causes behind the unfair and regressive nature of our state's tax structure and worsen the burden for poor and moderate income families in our community.
Fourth, we are concerned that your plan proposes to use the increased revenue generated by a heavier burden on poor and moderate income families, not to fund any of the important needs and services our State faces, but to decrease the tax burden for those members of our community who are most blessed with wealth and resources. That, too, is unacceptable.
Fifth, we are concerned that your proposed tax plan will be unsustainable over the long term. Historically, sales have grown much more slowly than personal income, in our State and across the country. Swapping income taxes for sales taxes replaces a faster-growing revenue source with a slower-growing revenue source. We worry that your proposal would be "revenue neutral" in its first year, but "revenue negative" over the longer term. If our State begins to rely even more heavily upon a slower-growing portion of our economy for revenue, we will face deficits and service cuts down the road that make our current ones seem small.
We believe that any proposed law that would increase the tax burden on low- and moderate-income families in order to decrease it for wealthy families must be judged an unjust law.
We believe that any proposed law that would threaten the long-term fiscal soundness of our State must be judged an unwise law.
Therefore, we ask you, in the full spirit of humility and faith, to develop a fundamentally different framework for tax reform.
To that end, we submit the following basic principles as guidelines for the kind of tax reform that would be just and in accord with the ethical frameworks of our faith traditions:
Principle #1) Tax reform should not increase the sales tax rate or take any other steps that make our tax structure more regressive than it is already;
Principle #2) New sources of revenue should be used, not merely to redistribute the tax burden from one group to another, but to invest in high priorities for our state, such as healthcare, education, human services and infrastructure, which have seen significant and far-reaching cuts in recent years; and
Principle #3) Tax reform should not replace a faster-growing revenue source with a slower-growing revenue source, thereby threatening our State's ability to afford important services and investments in the future.
We thank you for your serious consideration of these concerns. We would welcome the opportunity for a delegation of our leadership to meet with you to discuss these matters in more detail. We can be reached at LAfaithcommunity@gmail.com to schedule that meeting.
We pray that you, and all of us, may be blessed with the judgment to move forward in a spirit of wisdom and fairness on such an important matter to the lives and well-being of so many.
View the signatories at the link above.
A second, unaffiliated faith-based group also came out against the governor's tax plan with a rally on the Capitol steps Monday afternoon. Led by the Micah Project, an affiliate of the interfaith community-organizing focused group PICO Louisiana, clergy denounced the proposal as benefiting wealthy Louisianians and corporations at the expense of the poor and middle class.I'm betting the governor will not meet with the clergy representatives, but I hope I'm wrong. Jindal seems to listen to no one who does not already agree with his policies. He surrounds himself with a closed circle of advisers and his supporters the legislature and hears only what he wants to hear.
Referring to administration claims that a sales-tax based system would create a simpler tax code, the Rev. Chuck Andrus of Blessed Sacrement - St. Joan of Arc Catholic Church in New Orleans said the tax system should take into account the needs of families in the state.
"We don't want what's simplest, we want what is just for our families," Andrus said.