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Blanco aides plead not to have taken away from them what they took from us

The refrain came through loud and clear: “Please don’t make it worse” begged Gov. Kathleen Blanco’s chief of staff Andy Kopplin, to the state Senate’s Revenue and Fiscal Affairs Committee. Imagine the mentality it takes to consider giving a small portion of the people’s money back to them as “worse.”

This comment came in references to the myriad of tax cut measures introduced into the Senate, and House. Some look popular enough to pass, thus the Blanco effort to prevent giving the people a bit of their money back rather than doing what’s really necessary to cover necessary government activities more efficiently.

For example, restructure affairs concerning Medicaid as recommended by the Legislative Auditor and the approximately $125 million shortfall for the program almost disappears. Or, instead of trying to tie together two disparate things that have nothing to do with each other, the revenue stream of sin taxes and teacher raises, forget about the raises and attach those health matters to funding Medicaid – after all, likely a good chunk of Medicaid spending comes as a result of people smoking.

Instead, Kopplin tried to fake out the inattentive, apparently getting wind of some numbers coming out of the Census Bureau today, by trying to run the argument that Louisiana is “undertaxed” by being only “38th” among the states in state tax burden, so there’s no reason to cut taxes. This lame excuse fails on three accounts.

First, it is always disingenuous to argue an absolute point on relative terms. It doesn’t matter where Louisiana ranks, what matters is whether the burden is commensurate with the proper aims of government and its efficiency in pursuing them. Certainly Louisiana fails on the second account, which should invalidate any argument that a tax cut is unneeded (indeed, it might spur state government on to a proper level of efficiency). In other words, Kopplin’s argument is akin to somebody who commits manslaughter who argues he ought not make it right by saying, “At least I didn’t commit murder like other guys.”

Second, let’s go ahead and use the relativism paradigm anyways. In that case, Kopplin was slightly wrong because Louisiana actually ranks 34th. But it’s a minor point.

Third, however, is the major point that this cited statistic is only state taxation. If you include state and local taxation (remember, all local governments are fully controllable by their state governments), Louisiana actually ranks 16th in highest tax burden (and fees aren’t even included). It doesn’t matter which level of government taxes, it’s all the same thing – absconding with the people’s money hopefully for a worthy purpose. Just because one level of government does not tax that heavily does not give it the right to raise or to not lower taxes when another level of government it controls is allowed to tax heavily.

It’s as simple as this – concerning all taxes that ultimately, one way or the other, are controlled by the state, Louisiana’s 10.4 percent rate is above the national average. Louisianans definitely are not “undertaxed” even on a relative basis.

Blanco needs to recognize that the only taxes that should remotely be considered being raised would be her sin taxes if they are tied into the ills of the sins being taxed – health care and gambling addiction – and that other taxes should be cut. If raising sin taxes for teacher salary raises and no tax cuts are Plan A, then the sooner she understands it’s bad, the quicker we can get to implementing the better and badly needed Plan B in part described above.

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