Jeffrey D. Sadow is an associate professor of political science at Louisiana State University Shreveport. If you're an elected official, political operative or anyone else upset at his views, don't go bothering LSUS or LSU System officials about that because these are his own views solely.
This publishes Sunday through Thursday with the exception of 7 holidays. Also check out his Louisiana Legislature Log especially during legislative sessions (in "Louisiana Politics Blog Roll" below).
good news than bad came out of the 2016 First Extraordinary Session of the
Louisiana Legislature. It didn’t advance much the cause of right-sizing state
government but neither did it set up the possibility for defeat, either – an evaluation
validated in reverse barometer fashion by the state’s foremost advocate of big
The end product raised some
business taxes, some permanently so, most of which will get passed along to
consumers, as well as hiked the state sales taxes a penny and escalated in
minor fashion other excise taxes. It featured some modest cuts to government
spending, although admittedly perhaps reducing as much as possible given the
short remainder of the fiscal year. More notable for what it did not do, it
rejected overtures to double the Earned Income Tax Credit and to create more progressive
individual taxation, even as it left the door open for that by putting forth a
constitutional amendment that could wipe out deductibility of individual income
tax credits for federal taxes paid.
Naturally, that result did not sit
well with Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards, who
wailed about an estimated $800 million shortfall from his preferred spending
level for next fiscal year, called those legislators who did not agree with his
resistance to right-sizing government derelict and not working together for the
good of the state, and lied about the nature of the recurring revenue generated
being ineligible for use for that purpose and also about that future cuts would
have to go mostly to higher education and health care. He errantly and
audaciously alleged he had intended for the session to undertake structural
reform, when he really meant that agenda only entailed increasing taxes to
redistribute more wealth.
Never before elected to office
despite past efforts, they ran against experienced legislators and those House
members’ votes for tax increases in 2015 to win Senate seats narrowly in northwest
Louisiana. Yet early
in their legislative careers, their paths diverged in ways belying their
Democrats received a small amount
of cheer from their state Sen. John
Milkovich having taken the long-time GOP seat in District 38. Previous runs
for office had established him as a social conservative and pronouncements
about reining in profligate spending in state government along with a Caddo
parish base (his runoff GOP opponent coming from Desoto Parish) gave him enough
support for the win. In District 36, Republican state Sen. Ryan Gatti won his contest by relentless
criticism of his Republican runoff opponent’s voting record on taxes, alleging
he was the “true conservative” in the contest.
However, delving deeper into Gatti’s
campaign rhetoric and associations revealed him as somewhat of a Trojan Horse.
He criticized state education reforms built upon accountability and school
choice, a major conservative policy victory of the past few years. Further, he
aided the victorious campaign of his Democrat former classmate and now Gov. John Bel Edwards,
leading to fears that he could become a reliable vote for the agenda of one of
the most liberal members of the House of Representatives over the previous
Today the Legislature will take up
again the budget-balancing issue. While the long term looms, what to do to
solve the current year deficit remains unknown and most in need of urgent
resolution. As the sun set yesterday, legislative rules prevented any more
introductions of legislation on the tax side, so any moves that deal with
taxation must take place within the confines of any legislation already passed
by a chamber, with all matters settled by 6 PM Wednesday.
At that time, given the range of tax
instruments already dealt with by at least one chamber, a gap of well over $100
million remained. Since appetites for further spending cuts seem lost, the
question has boiled down to whether sales tax adjustments should take up the
entire slack, or if some combination of income tax rate, deduction, and credit
changes and sales tax exemptions on business also should enter the mix.
Trump finished with around 41
percent of the vote, only three points better than Sen. Ted Cruz and the remainder split
among many others. While the closeness
of the contest showed the limitations of polling – these inform only about
a snapshot in time, and the electoral environment in the state appeared to
change dramatically in a the few days between data collection and election day
itself – it also showed some erosion of Trump’s support. The next question
becomes whether this replicates and deepens across the primary landscape.
If anyplace, Louisiana is tailor-made
for a candidacy like Trump’s. He is the first populist Republican to campaign seriously
in the state since, well, Trump endorsee (but not “everything”
about him) former state Rep. David Duke. Much mythology and distortion has
come about concerning Duke’s rise to prominence, complicating a rather simple
phenomenon: Duke became the first to turn the populism in the state’s political
culture that always articulated big government as a friend of the people into
their enemy. Populism endorses a Manichean view of the world, ratifying the
notion of irreconcilable divisions existing within society that only can be
solved by levelling the playing field through government intervention (liberalism;
government must promote the alleged structurally disadvantaged groups, made so
by societal conditions, by rigging outcomes to favor them) or by failure of
government intervention (conservatism; government creates the uneven field
through special interests using it to advantage themselves).