Louisiana's $315 million deficit from last year was mainly driven by continuing dips in employment that are hammering personal income and business tax collections, the Legislature's chief economist said Thursday.Know, also, a lot of Donald Trump's support in Louisiana came from voters expecting him to "save" the oil and gas industry through.. well.. primarily through disastrous environmental deregulation.
Greg Albrecht delivered the grim assessment to the state's income forecasting panel, the Revenue Estimating Conference, with a warning: "There's no improvement in sight so far."
The economist, who has described Louisiana as in a recession, told the forecasting panel that the number of private-sector jobs in the state has been falling since last year, particularly in the oil and gas industry, but also in other high-paying fields.
"We've had declining employment or slowdown since the beginning of 2015," Albrecht said.
That has a ripple effect across income and sales tax collections, as people earn and spend less money, hitting state coffers — and providing fewer dollars to pay for state services and programs.
Louisiana's unemployment rate is 6.4 percent, third-worst among states. The number of people working in the mining sector, which includes the oil and gas industry, has fallen 30 percent since December 2014, according to Albrecht's data.
The president-elect has made no secret of his disdain for the ambitious agenda pursued by the Environmental Protection Agency."We can leave a little bit." Louisiana is going under the sea thanks to climate change and the oil industry's despoiling of the coast. We won't be the little bit that gets left.
"Environmental protection, what they do is a disgrace; every week they come out with new regulations," he told Fox News Sunday last year.
"Who's going to protect the environment?" asked host Chris Wallace.
"We'll be fine with the environment," Trump replied. "We can leave a little bit, but you can't destroy businesses."
Trump has begun mapping out his new environmental policy with a transition team that shares his deregulatory zeal. He is reportedly relying on Myron Ebell, director of the Center for Energy and Environment at the conservative Competitive Enterprise Institute, to help him flesh out his transition plan for the EPA.
Trump has also promised to eliminate regulations on oil and gas exploration to boost development of fossil fuels and help spur the economy. To help him implement that policy, he is reportedly considering naming Forrest Lucas, the 74-year-old co-founder of oil products company Lucas Oil, as his interior secretary.
That agency has broad purview over energy policy, including oversight of offshore drilling, fracking regulations, protections for endangered species and supervision of national parks and wildlife refuges.