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Turncoat Republicans ready to defeat party on budget

Round 3 of the budget tussle between Democrat Gov. Kathleen Blanco and the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives in the Louisiana Legislature and Republicans went to the latter, contrary to Round 2 but like Round 1. However, the numbers and recent history seem to indicate the match will go to the reckless, free-spending Blanco.

Unable to stop the majority Democrats from passing a bloated budget born of a surplus exceeding $3.5 billion dollars that gives almost none of that money back to its owners the people and creates costly, unsustainable new commitments, Republicans have tried to use various means where two-thirds votes are involved (they have 42 of 105 members plus an independent who usually votes with them) to force some compromise out of the Blanco Administration. Their first tactic involved trying to prevent enabling legislation for bond sales to go through unless tax cuts were increased and recurring spending decreased.

But after two votes, it became clear enough liberal Republicans and Republicans-in-name-only would cause this strategy to fail, so then they moved to the tactic of trying to veto the state government from exceeding the Constitutional spending cap to the tune of $1.9 billion, offering an $827 million excess instead. The state’s spending cannot grow faster than the private sector economy unless two-thirds of legislators in each house approve.

Today, the GOP offered an amendment to exceed the cap by $827 million, defeated 42-61 – almost a straight party-line vote except that Democrat state Reps. Troy Hebert and John Smith and recent convert Republican state Rep. William Daniel IV and economic liberal Republican Hollis Downs crossed up their parties and recent converts Republican state Reps. Neal Heaton and Billy Montgomery were absent. That move obviously failed, but then it succeeded when a Democrat motion to bust the cap by the higher figure failed 68-36.

On this one only Heaton was absent, while the previous defectors did so again except for Smith who on this stayed loyal to his party this time and was joined by Montgomery who, now present, abandoned his new party. In addition, unreliable Republicans state Reps. Dale Erdey, Donald Ray Kennard, Tank Powell, and Bodi White crossed along with independent Joel Robideaux.

Unfortunately for Republicans, this puts Blanco and the Democrats on the brink of victory. The absent new Republican Heaton and liberal Republican state Rep. Tom McVea initially voted in Round 1 with Blanco, and Democrat Hebert may wilt under pressure. Put the squeeze on these three and any two (assuming everybody shows up and votes as they did previously) bring victory to Blanco. With almost a two-thirds majority in the Senate to Democrats, winning the House is tantamount to Blanco getting it all.

So, once again, it seems Republicans insufficiently committed to sensible government spending and to the people will foist bad policy on Louisiana.

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