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Democrat tax push designed to embarrass Jindal

The preliminary stare-down went to Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal. But the first round begins today, and we’ll see whether his opponents can win what appears to be a fight with ramifications beyond the state that will go the distance this regular session of the Louisiana Legislature.

Such dramatic terms entirely are appropriate for what’s coming, despite the comity expressed in Jindal’s opening address to the body yesterday. Comments such as House Speaker Pro Tem’s Karen Peterson’s “We differ in opinions on how to fix problems” and state Rep. Juan LaFonta’s “we don’t remedy the budget just by speaking generalities” and in conveying a picture of harmony, both Democrats signal a coming storm not just over the more specific picture of policy in the state, but over the more general question of Jindal’s threat to the power and privilege of these individuals and those like them across the country.

LaFonta errs when he claims some budget “remedy” is needed; Jindal already has provided one. What he really means is he doesn’t like this particular remedy and apparently would like one that raises taxes as he signed on with Peterson to co-author HB 75 which would raise taxes on tobacco and pledges (but does not mandate) that the money raised go to indigent health care expenditures which in absolute terms display the largest cuts under the Jindal proposed budget.

Here is where it can get interesting. Jindal already picked up a bit of a win in the name of reform when yesterday the state’s Board of Elementary and Secondary Education voted to endorse reforms that would introduce more efficiency into and reduce the amount of politics attached to local governance of education. On the heels of that in his speech he spoke of using dollars in this area more efficiently, where presumably the two items, procedural changes and more fastidious use of resources, would provide better education at less cost. It is the approach that Jindal has taken to the difficulties of significantly declining state revenues.

HB 75, heading to committee hearings today, would undercut that effort. Besides it being a tax increase which regardless of intent always depresses economic activity and therefore future government revenues, it would try to subvert the advantages of smaller government brought onto the state by the present situation. Jindal has preached such virtues although his record is mixed in producing them in policy, but now the moment has arrived for him to demonstrate full embracement of them.

Jindal has said a bill like HB 75 would draw his veto, and perhaps concerning most past governors that would be enough to have the bill shunted aside in committee. But the larger picture is that Jindal also is a rising power in national Republican politics which will activate state Democrats to create situations detracting from Jindal reaching his potential on this account.

So look for a concerted effort by Democrats to push HB 75 as far as they can, with the ultimate goal being to get it to Jindal’s desk. If they can do that, they can expand state spending by the amount projected to be generated by it. This means not only would Jindal be forced to cast a veto against HB 75 and be criticized for cutting off a source of revenue from a dubious activity, but also then he would have to issue line item vetoes for that amount in the budget thereby making him look villainous. And in the very unlikely chance Jindal would sign it that also would damage him politically as his supporters against tax increases would feel let down.

In short, the backers of HB 75 know this bill has next to no chance of becoming law, as there is no way they have they votes for a veto override, but they will push hard for it regardless of the divisiveness it causes because it is a weapon in the long-term war to snuff Jindal’s national political career before he becomes a threat to national Democrat interests. Absent this desire they could take a more responsible course in creating a budget that does more with less, but that’s not the way they play the game. Let the title fight begin.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I learned just about everything I know about politics from you. Luckily though, I learned the difference between the 5th and 6th Constitutional Amendments from Dr. Pederson. :)