CATALYST FOR CHANGE… PAR Research Gets Results
Major Roles and Accomplishments, 1950-present
Many significant governmental reforms have emanated from PAR’s research over the past four decades due largely to PAR’s credibility and objectivity. PAR’s studies have covered a broad spectrum of issues such as:
State Budget Reform
PAR has been the leading proponent of state budget reforms through its research, analysis and legislative testimony. Specific PAR recommendations enacted include:
- Limits on future state debt
- Requiring feasibility studies prior to financing construction projects;
- Consensus revenue forecasting;
- Creation of an independent legislative fiscal staff;
- Creation of the legislative auditor’s office;
- A balanced state budget requirement;
- Creation of a mineral stabilization trust fund and “rainy day” provision, and
- Limits on state spending growth.
State & Local Tax Issues
PAR has long recognized that a fair, equitable and broad-based tax system in Louisiana is of paramount importance to the economic vitality of the state. PAR’s research consistently has pointed toward the need to lower the homestead exemption, establish a single collector of local sales taxes, and eliminate taxes that make Louisiana non-competitive.
A significant change recommended by PAR was the establishment of the inventory tax credit program.
In addition, in 1993, PAR’s proposal to balance the budget without new taxes was instrumental in significantly reducing the Governor’s request for taxes.
Public Education Reform
PAR’s research has emphasized K-12 public education and vocational-technical education. Specific PAR recommendations which have been enacted include:
- Creation of the Quality Education Trust Fund (8g);
- An appointed state superintendent of education;
- Modernization of vo-tech facilities;
- Four-year concurrent terms for the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education and local school boards;
- Initiation of school progress reports, and
- Tighter controls on the Quality Education Trust Fund with limits on administrative costs.
Other Governmental Reforms
Some of the other major reforms resulting from PAR research include:
- Reorganization of state government;
- The new state constitution;
- Actuarially sound funding of public retirement systems;
- Investment of idle state cash;
- A single ethics board with power to initiate investigations;
- A campaign finance reporting and prohibitions law;
- Strong open meetings and public records laws;
- Curbing of dual office holding;
- Equitable reapportionment of the Legislature into single-member districts;
- Comprehensive capital budgeting, and
- A single, expert agency to issue state bonds.
Citizen & Voter Education
One of PAR’s major accomplishments has been the education of Louisiana citizens on state and local issues. Through its research and publications, speeches to various groups and organizations, and its relationship with the media, PAR has played a major role in helping voters make informed decisions on proposed constitutional amendments, in focusing voters’ and candidates’ attention on the issues, and informing citizens about how the legislative process works and their rights under the public records and open meetings laws. Specific PAR reports include:
- Guide to the Proposed Constitutional Amendments, published prior to every election on amendments;
- Citizen’s Guide to the Louisiana Legislature, published every four years, with annual updates;
- Citizen’s Rights Card (guide to the open meetings and public records laws), updated as needed;
- “Major Issues” published every four years prior to gubernatorial elections, and
- Editorials on topical issues.
In addition, PAR answers hundreds of requests for information from Louisiana citizens about state and local government issues and operations.
Watchdog & Committee Participation
PAR fills an important “watchdog” role by maintaining a vigilant eye on state government operations and the Legislature. Bulletins during legislative sessions highlight good and bad proposed legislation and suggest improvements.
Due to their recognized expertise and objectivity, PAR staff frequently are asked to either chair or serve on a variety of study committees. These committees have dealt with subjects such as public retirement, education, personnel management, reorganization, taxes and state expenditures.