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21.6.18

LA poised to endure sales tax reimposition

Get ready for a wild and wacky weekend at Louisiana’s Capitol.

Whether, and by how much and when, sales tax hikes will reinstitute in the state starting Jul. 1 the Legislature largely will decide over the next few days. Additionally, the budget finally accepted by Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards may find itself rearranged to some degree. And, a wild card courtesy of the U.S. Supreme Court entered the equation.

In one corner, Edwards and his legislative party wants passage of a half-cent increase in sales taxes to replace the one cent rolling off Jun. 30. This represents a small bit of compromise from their initial preference of raising income taxes permanently, with them already having secured a temporary increase of some and an expanded earned income tax credit also due to sunset.

In the other corner, most Republicans, mainly in the House of Representatives, have signaled they will back one of three measures: a one-third cent increase, a two-fifth cent increase, or a half cent that decreases over time, all for five years duration only. Any of these positions reside considerably from their initial reluctance to raise any taxes at all.

To strengthen their hands, House Republican leaders have sent out a supplemental appropriations bill that rejiggers what cuts from the present baseline would have to occur. By setting some priorities where presumably more important items receive funding for anything less than the half-cent, this makes getting anything less more palatable. Whether the Senate, more controlled by Edwards, will accede is another matter.

Mixing things up more, today the Supreme Court issued a ruling allowing states to collect sales taxes on remote purchases even from dealers without a physical connection in a state. This will give a shot in the arm to state coffers that bolsters the argument for less than a half cent or even no increase at all. Louisiana already put a mechanism in place to implement this quickly.

Unfortunately, politics may point to an increase, and, interestingly, towards the GOP option that at least begins the highest. Over the span of the envisioned five years, the half-cent-diminishing one actually in aggregate taxes calls for a lower percentage than five straight years at two-fifths, although it still comes out greater than the one-third option.

Given that the Legislative Black Caucus comprises almost a third of House membership and enough other Democrats would join it – never mind Republicans dead set against any tax increase – in opposing anything but the half-cent renewal, they can prevent the two-thirds majority needed to pass a tax hike. By contrast, the half-cent deal in the previous special session attracted a number of Republican votes but fell in total a half-dozen short from success. Watering it down through diminution could pick off enough of them while Black Caucus defections may not even occur – after all, that bargain would allow maximal revenue-raising through the end of Edwards’ term, which its members want.

So, Republican maneuverings have set things up for some trimming of government but not outright rejection of any tax hike. Even with the joker of a high court ruling that could moot any need for a tax increase – if not argue for a decrease – the next few days should see Louisianans continue to pay higher sales levies than they did three years ago.

19.6.18

Edwards may get what he wants on inmate total

Maybe Gov. John Bel Edwards should get what he asked for.

With the 2018 Third Extraordinary Session of the Louisiana Legislature commencing, the Democrat Edwards’ administration has launched a full-court press to ensure some kind of sales tax increase reoccurs as a result of it. Immediately after the end of the second edition, administration officials began circulating reports of various supposed calamities that would come from failure to reinstitute some kind of tax hike.

One such came from the Corrections Secretary Jimmy LeBlanc. He claimed that a $75 million reduction in budgetary authority would cause him to release 10,000 prisoners, specifically nonviolent ones not sex offenders housed in local jails, over the span of several months The state pays local authorities $24.39 daily to keep the overflow of state inmates for which Louisiana doesn’t have room in its own institutions.

18.6.18

Data erode Edwards' food stamps scare tactic

Call the bluff, in part if not totally, on food stamps.

With the 2018 Third Extraordinary Session of the Louisiana Legislature commencing, the Gov. John Bel Edwards Administration has launched a full-court press to ensure some kind of sales tax increase reoccurs as a result of it. Immediately after the send of the second edition, administration officials began circulating reports of various supposed calamities that would come from failure to reinstitute some kind of tax hike.

One came from the Department of Children and Family Services, whose Secretary Marketa Garner Walters proclaimed the budget without the increase signaled the end of the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program. She claimed the budget cut $34 million, which, given other priorities, meant the state would have to discontinue SNAP.

14.6.18

Frivolous LA suit part of far left's long game

If you can’t win by playing by the rules, try to use undemocratic means to change the rules, a frivolous suit aimed at reshaping Louisiana’s congressional districts illustrates – but with an eye on the long game.

An arm of national Democrats, the National Redistricting Foundation, recently filed suit in Louisiana plus two other states, alleging in all three instances the drawn congressional districts violate voting rights. In all cases, the proportion of black residents exceeds the proportion of seats held by black Democrats in Congress as set up by the respective districting plans.

This leads to complaints by plaintiffs that they can’t elect the candidates they want as their votes are “diluted,” referring to prohibitions in Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Their only problem is, their position has been litigated for over three decades and found wanting.

12.6.18

Vindictive Edwards punishes Ouachita residents

Once is an accident. However, twice is not a coincidence but intentional, much to the chagrin of Ouachita Parish.

That’s the reality area legislators and local officials must accept regarding flood control. Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards vetoed – again –  state money for the River Styx pump station. The repairs would decrease the chances of flooding in the northeastern part of the parish, near CenturyLink headquarters and surrounding neighborhoods that suffered high water encroachment in 2016.

The year after that, area legislators placed the request in the state’s capital outlay budget. They did so near the end of the process because funding attempts by local government to procure federal dollars didn’t materialize. This also caused a Priority 5 assignment to the project, the lowest. The governor, despite the previous year’s flooding, vetoed it.

11.6.18

Edwards enters Round III weaker than ever

It’s Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards vs. Republican House of Representatives majority III, a showdown that, like some prizefights, basketball championships, etc. may prove less competitive than its predecessors.

Edwards called the year’s third special session because the lower House GOP will not accede to backing his requests to spend all outdoors. It will grant him spending all indoors, witnessed by the fact that in the second such session that a majority voted for reinstituting a third of a cent increase in the sales tax due to expire, but that offer, representing 80 percent of his desired total, his party found wanting and defeated that measure the second time it came up (any tax increase requires a two-thirds vote in each chamber of the Legislature).

Therefore, back to the salt mines go legislators, as Edwards attempts a sitzkrieg strategy to wear down House opposition (in the Senate his lapdog GOP Pres. John Alario has enough feckless Republicans to muscle through whatever the governor wants). Yet the call he made to do it illustrates how his position has weakened.