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Two-faced Edwards obscures big govt agenda

For Louisiana Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards, it’s all smoke and mirrors with his fiscal agenda, obscuring Louisianans from realizing how he wants to take their wealth to grow government.

The past month has not presented an ideal period for Edwards to impress the state, courtesy of Republican Pres. Donald Trump’s delivery of substantial federal tax cuts that will lower amounts paid by roughly 80 percent of filers. By contrast, Edwards wants to raise taxes to maintain inflated state government spending.

Still, Trump’s triumph gave Edwards a chance to unveil a clever distraction from his tax-and-spend governance. He called upon the state’s private utilities to provide rate reductions to consumers – residents pay the lowest rates in the country already and commercial users the 12th-lowest – as a result of lower federal taxes on their incomes.


Desperate Edwards pins hope on PR campaign

Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards’ tax-and-spend budget-making strategy isn’t working, and panic in his camp is increasing as a result.

After setting down a supposedly hard-and-fast deadline on Jan. 19 to call a special session devoted to closing a projected roughly $1 billion budget deficit for next fiscal year, Edwards backed off from that when Republican House Speaker Taylor Barras essentially told him they would get back to him at his chamber majority’s leisure. This put Edwards in an unpalatable position, forcing him to write a budget with huge cuts and/or appending to it a series of tax increases, due Jan. 26.

By doing so, Edwards ends up owning both while the Republican-led House and Senate dissidents to GOP Sen. Pres. John Alario’s lapdog rule in concert with Edwards can criticize and present contrasts to his product. To avoid this and try to bully Republicans into endorsing his preferred cuts and tax hikes, Edwards has changed his offensive tactics.


Racial politics unhelpful in solving problems

Reaction to Republican Pres. Donald Trump’s remark disparaging conditions in Haiti and Africa generally shows not just the poverty of liberalism, but the acumen of Louisiana’s GOP Sen. John Kennedy.

Last week, in the context of immigration reform, Trump noted (using a saltier adjective) that policy should do more to attract highly-skilled immigrants, rather than people from countries who typically do not have indoor plumbing and who find themselves using outdoor facilities. The “hole” or “house” comment (depending on who heard it) referring to the destination of excrement predictably dominated the flavor-of-the-moment news cycle.

Of course, Trump could have spoken more diplomatically. Of course, he didn’t because his personality is such that he must attract attention, which he doubtlessly knew he would for the phrasing he used. And, like trained seals, over the remark (apparently dutifully disseminated by at least one Democrat present at the meeting of Trump and lawmakers) America’s hard left in particular had a meltdown, which, given its perpetual stance of outrage, happens continuously.

An instructive Louisiana example comes from New Orleans Times-Picayune columnist Jarvis DeBerry, who wrote it confirmed his view that Trump was racist, as the countries Trump’s remark disparaged have black majorities and almost all politicians ruling over them are black. (Some sources say Trump lumped in El Salvador as well, but, even as Hispanics technically are Caucasian excepting those with North American Indian ancestors, the left divides the world between whites from economically developed states and everybody else.) Yet, apparently it takes one to know one: DeBerry ceaselessly, senselessly, and without any empirical support gratuitously injects race into much of his commentary, so what does that make him?

The same tendency comes from the state’s Democrat Rep. Cedric Richmond, who framed Trump’s remark in the context of wanting to “Make America White Again.” He claimed the remarks were “racially insensitive and ignorant.” Again, the enthusiastic tendency demonstrated here to see many issues of the day through the lens of race draws questions about whether Richmond can evaluate the entire political world in a way not based upon identity politics.

More charitably, liberals tend to supply this interpretation as an excuse for explaining the endemic failures of liberalism. They must believe in an imaginary racist bogeyman hiding in the hearts of the (white) mass public, straining to six degrees of separation to impute alleged racism to any policy with which they disagree and to the disappointing outcomes of liberal prescriptions, in order to keep the faith in light of the overwhelming evidence illuminating the bankruptcy of their worldview.

DeBerry and Richmond, typically of the left, therefore missed the entire point of Trump’s ham-handed, attention-seeking, but incisive comment: cultures of those countries he derided tend to lead both to political and economic dysfunction, producing largely low-skilled individuals with less commitment to democratic values and civic virtue. Naturally, such people generally speaking bring less potential to serve America and its people so, if as currently constituted, the country’s immigration policy restricts numbers, then what’s wrong with wishing more high-skilled immigrants whose social and political values more closely adhere to American political culture would come here at the expense of those others, regardless of race, color, or creed?

Stating the obvious on this point, as Trump did it albeit in a way designed more to draw attention to himself that distracts from the point, does not make one racist. If one thinks this does indicate racist views, then one must embark upon self-reflection as to why one feels compelled to stamp that interpretation on the event and must understand that this tells more about the receiver of that communication than its sender.

That point Kennedy hit upon when asked about Trump’s remark. Like Trump, Kennedy doesn’t turn down opportunities to promote himself, although he does so in a more sophisticated manner that highlights the policy rather than himself. But neither does he let remarks by Trump or anybody else set his agenda – until he can get a little political mileage from it.

Asked by the media about the comment, Kennedy’s response showed he understood the dynamics of it perfectly, in particular that its significance came more in the reactions to it than in its making. Queried on whether the quip constituted a “roadblock” to the immigration debate, Kennedy astutely said “If it’s a roadblock, it’s because we let it be a roadblock,” and more generally argued to focus on such remarks served as a policy-making distraction in which he would not indulge himself.

Precisely. The constipated, unsustainable view that most of America’s white majority runs around obsessed with race and that this drives all aspects of their political behavior in largely negative ways does more to prevent implementing solutions to problems plaguing America, particularly its minority citizens, than anything else, exactly because it distracts from a valid understanding of those problems. Kennedy comprehends that. Now if only those who perpetuate the problems by their hijacking of these issues could.


LA legal climate, tax structure explain deal loss

The incentive package that Louisiana offered to attract a new Toyota/Mazda plant had nothing to do with why the state lost out to Alabama. That Louisiana has an uncompetitive tax code, badly needs tort reform, and has uncertainty surrounding its industrial tax exemption program has everything to do with its jilting.

Last week, Toyota and Mazda announced Alabama had won over the joint plant’s siting. Louisiana offered a deal around a half of a billion dollars to land the $1.6 billion enterprise, but lost out to a deal Gov. John Bel Edwards Administration officials described as comparable in value. It included $110 million in land, $91.8 million worth of jobs training, $45 million in machinery, equipment, and land grants, employment tax credits worth $173.1 million, and $90.6 million in tax abatements, likely through the Industrial Tax Exemption Program.

Toyota already had a plant in Huntsville, and Alabama has other car assembly facilities. Then again, Shreveport has the idle former General Motors plant, although local politics with Caddo Parish assuming the role of venture capitalist that attracted a three-wheel automobile manufacturer to that facility that probably never will produce a single vehicle may have discouraged the joint venture from utilizing that location.


For his agenda, Edwards games tax cut impact

Looks like Louisiana’s Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards is going for broke in his quest to turn back the clock on the state’s fiscal practices.

Edwards attempt to forestall right-sizing of state government hinges on finding new revenues to support a bloated state sector. Trumpeting budget deficit after budget deficit best accomplishes this objective. Thus, any organic creation of new revenues – i.e., a larger tax haul without raising rates or scrapping exceptions – puts a dent in this plan as it reduces the deficit, relieving pressure on instituting permanent new revenue sources – particularly his preferred progressive income taxation especially on corporations or fewer exceptions where the bulk of newly-unshielded dollars would come from transactions disproportionately undertaken by higher-income entities.

Thus, his administration has tried to throw cold water over the beneficial impact tax cuts passed the Republican-led Congress and signed into law by GOP Pres. Donald Trump would have on the projected fiscal year 2019 budget for Louisiana. Reviewing those changes, and only partially, the Edwards Administration said it would mean a boost of $200 million to $250 million for FY 2019. That covers only individual income tax collection; the Administration has abjured from estimating the impact that corporate tax cuts would produce, so the figure could go much higher.


Decision could trigger enormous LA fiscal change

Hold on to your hernia belts, a potential court decision either could make Louisiana state budgeting more intractable or become a catalyst for badly needed change.

After years of sifting through legal minutiae, a state district court finally will hear on the merits a suit brought by the Public Service Commission against the Legislature for sweeping money from dedicated funds that provide revenues for PSC operations. Past special appropriations bills have yanked millions of dollars from coffers set up to hold money for the PSC.

Statute can be interpreted to support either side. For example, R.S. 45:1177, in setting up the Utility and Carrier Inspection and Supervision Fund, states that “[t]he monies in this fund shall be used solely for the expenses of the operations of the commission” and “[i]f the amounts contained in the fund provided for in this Section are in excess of that necessary to fund the operations of the commission, then that excess shall be retained in such funds,” or pretty standard boilerplate for a dedicated fund.


LA mayors oddly treat Farrakhan with honor

The Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan Tour across north Louisiana left equal parts outrage and head-scratching over the action by the mayors of the area’s central cities.

Farrakhan decamped to Louisiana to view the Dec. 15 graduation of his granddaughter at Grambling State University. He blew into Shreveport the prior day, whereupon the city corralled some on-duty police officers and escorted him from the airport to the city-owned Hilton Hotel.

Plans to escort him to the city limits the next day on his way to Grambling apparently never materialized. Allegedly, he also received such services to a restaurant where a private function occurred, but city attorney William Bradford denied any such authorization existed.


Holding cards, Barras deflects Edwards' bullying

While he didn’t exactly treat Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards as if Louisiana’s chief executive didn’t exist, Republican House Speaker Taylor Barras did make clear who called the shots over the state’s fiscal year 2019 picture and beyond.

Late last year, Edwards declared he wanted consensus with the Legislature by Jan. 19 on a package to reduce a projected budget deficit of around $1 billion, a gap mainly driven by the disappearance of temporary taxes. With that in hand, he said he then would call for a February special session to implement such a plan. The Legislature cannot raise taxes in even-numbered years during the regular session that begins in March, and having a special session after the regular session’s end in June would leave little time to produce a comprehensive solution.

In making this demand, Edwards hopes to avoid continued singular association with tax increases. By rushing the Republicans who control the Legislature into signing onto this agenda by refusing to call a session for revenue-raising, he can deflect blame for reelection purposes by reminding that a permanent, income tax-raising solution and perhaps broadening the sales tax base to negate a nagging budget deficit came in bipartisan fashion.


Ganja enforcement change to keep LA grounded

Maybe Louisiana will find itself a bit more grounded as a result of a change in federal marijuana enforcement policy.

This past week, the Pres. Donald Trump Administration announced it would not turn as blind of an eye toward legalization of ganja use in the states. The previous administration essentially had told attorney generals not to prosecute usage in states that decriminalized this. Now, orders have gone out unbinding prosecutors to that.

That means states which, under their law, have decriminalized possession of small amounts of weed, their citizens face increased chance that the federal government will bring them up on charges. Where medical marijuana use has legal status, technically those who use it in any form have a greater risk of arrest for that.


Disasters can't compensate for poor NO rule

The only problem is, you can’t count on a disaster occurring every five years or so to cover up mistakes made in governing.

New Orleans proceeds with its infrastructure rebuild after the hurricane disasters of 2005. Given $2.4 billion to accomplish this, about a sixth of that should commence this year, albeit on a pace that would see the last of it completed just before two decades have passed since Hurricane Katrina struck.

The money, gifted by the federal government, has not flowed into the city without controversy. The inspector general’s office of the Department of Homeland Security, which oversees the distribution, concluded that $2 billion worth of the damage came not from the flooding, but from decades of neglect, and recommended taking back those funds. But the city looks likely to catch a break as it appears that federal officials will ignore that counsel.


Latest LPSC vote answers, raises questions

The first big issue handled by the post-election Louisiana Public Service Commission may have signaled the future direction the body might take.

Last month, the PSC adopted much more free market-friendly regulations regarding hauling hazardous waste. Under the old rules, barriers to entry restricted the number of certified haulers so that only 13 could have licenses to haul any kind of waste. New rules will require review for financial stability and an evaluation of capability and do not allow, as under the old rules, current holders essentially to have a veto power over the granting of licenses and also removes a process that was prohibitively expensive.

Prompting the move, the Legislature passed Act 278 last year, which the new PSC regulations essentially track. However, that law presented a constitutional question, since Art. IV Sec. 21 allocates power over “common carriers” to the PSC. R.S. 45:162 provides a definition for that which includes hazardous waste transport, a point that came up in the House of Representatives debate over the bill. Yet it passed it overwhelmingly in bipartisan fashion, and the Senate did the same.