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23.6.11

On tax cut, disingenuous posers put politics over people

As the Legislature signs off for this year and thereby the people can breathe a sigh of relief, but it appears that being able to protect their wallets from big government comes with the price of forgoing a most needed and fundamentally correct change to state taxation and spending habits.

SB 259, in the form it started, was a good bill. It was to have eliminated personal and corporate income taxes starting this tax year in five years. It was possible by making just a few easy changes to make up for the lost revenues for the first couple of years, buying enough time to allow the greater tax collections from increased economic activity set off by the reduction to begin manifesting and to derive where to cut additional spending in the time remaining for the cut to play itself out.

But you always had to be suspicious of the motives of its sponsor, one of the endangered species of the Legislature, white populist Democrat state Sen. Rob Marionneaux.

22.6.11

Spurious claims show Vitter still drives opponents crazy

Bereft of winning issues, a leftist organization tries something new. Searching for relevance, a group with a track record of religious conservatism tries something old. Both target Sen. David Vitter with arguments that, when examined on a principled basis, have no merit.

Understand that Republican Vitter is the most hated conservative by liberals in Louisiana. That probably was true even before in 2007 Vitter admitted publicly to a “serious sin” most likely involving prostitution services, because Vitter won a lot of political battles of behalf of conservative principles and consistently voted and acted that way in office, unapologetically and would point out liberal shortcomings with gusto.

But Vitter also possibly is the most hated conservative by conservatives, or at least some of them, in Louisiana.

21.6.11

Courts, people may stop newly merged tax, TOPS bill

House Speaker Jim Tucker never quite has gotten beyond his days as an opposition leader in the Louisiana House of Representatives willing to gum things up for the majority, and the spanner he helped toss into the works of Gov. Bobby Jindal’s legislative preferences might prevent legislation that he wants and the governor doesn’t as well as legislation they both want from coming to fruition.

Jindal had argued all session that he would not support any new taxes or increases in any form, so when he vetoed HB 591 by state Rep. Harold Ritchie, which would establish a 4 cents-a-pack tax on cigarettes starting in fiscal year 2013 after expiration of a previous like tax, technically he behaved consistently: the old tax would expire, proposed to be replaced by a new one. But given that majorities of nearly two-thirds of each chamber supported it, and likely also enjoyed a majority of public support, legislators were not amused even if not enough of them were willing to back a tax to override the veto.

But sometime after the failed veto override attempt, somebody got the idea to attach the essence of the bill to SB 53 by state Sen. John Alario that would siphon money more quickly from the Millennium Trust Fund to support the Taylor Opportunity Program for Scholars. This constitutional amendment required two-thirds approval in each chamber and is not subject to gubernatorial review. Requiring only a majority to agree, he got it and then easily the two-thirds margin to send it back to the Senate, where Alario is uncertain whether he will try to strip the bill of the taxation rider.

20.6.11

Legislature mostly whiffs in tackling pension problems

And the time bomb keeps ticking with little to slow it; this will be the assessment of how the 2011 Louisiana Legislature handled the $18.2 billion and rising unfunded accrued liabilities in the state’s various retirement accounts.

Not that efforts weren’t made to put the state on more solid footing with the recognition that its past generosity to state employees were costing taxpayers unnecessarily. Special mention goes to state Rep. Kevin Pearson who courageously sponsored a slew of bills to create a more realistic system that did not surrender taxpayers completely to the wants of state employees, both to address the problem for the future and to give some immediate assistance. About the only thing Pearson did not pursue was the eminently sensible idea from last session to put all new employees on a defined contribution plan.

For one of the main reasons why the UAL has become monstrously outsized has been that only some employees for universities and a handful of unclassified employees elsewhere (the opportunity for the latter since terminated) have been able to create retirement account like Individual Retirement Accounts, with the remainder in a defined benefit scheme that decades ago was made overgenerous.

19.6.11

Trivial study can't mask LA state govt inefficiency

In general, the left knows that when it tried to bring data into trying to support liberalism, it’s got to tap dance pretty fast and furiously to shunt aside the inconveniences from the data that demonstrate that the principles of conservatism better describe how the world really works. And we have a good example of the tactics employed with the latest production from the leftists at the Louisiana Budget Project.

This report tries to make the high per capita number of state workers in Louisiana seem a bit less obnoxious by reviewing employees by function in the state. It claims that, without including hospitals and corrections, that the state isn’t far from the middle of the pack as far as states go. Thus, as it argues, “in Louisiana, people on the state payroll are doing jobs that in other states are done by people on the state, local, private or nonprofit payrolls.” Therefore, is the implication, Louisiana really isn’t so bad on this account and people are getting too worked up about downsizing government.

However, note three tactics that readers must accept to draw this conclusion.