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Butchering of tax cut issue raises doubts about Jindal

Evidence continues to mount that Gov. Bobby Jindal simply does not want an individual income tax cut this year. If this is the case, his administration is handling it completely the wrong way and threatens to terminate any effectiveness of his governorship.

The crux is SB 87 by state Sen. Buddy Shaw which originally was to reduce income taxes for the middle- and highest-level filers in the state, reversing bracket hikes of fives years ago. But it got amended, mostly by those with the intent to stop it one way or the other, to get rid of all income taxes gradually over 10 years. That may be an achievable goal, but so much can happen between now and then that the idea of eliminating individual income taxes – a goal that Jindal himself during last year’s campaign said he hoped, but did not promise, he could achieve before he left the governor’s mansion – could be executed in a better fashion than the current construction of SB 87.

But the most surprising aspect of the whole matter has been an apparent great reluctance for Jindal to go along with its original intent. Jindal never did promise to cut income taxes in any way despite his feeling it was a goal to shoot for, and the Jindal Administration, with widespread acknowledgment from legislators, has warned rightly that budget deficits loom which may argue for getting those under control through spending changes first, then followed by individual tax cuts – even as Jindal already has gotten onto the books business tax cuts.

Still, there is spending in Jindal’s budget that easily could be sacrificed, such as $307.1 million for an economic development “megafund” that could attract large employers to the state – or maybe not at all – to offset the anticipated initial revenues losses from the tax reduction. Further, in about a week the state’s body charged with providing the official amount of revenue available for state spending almost certainly will declare hundreds of millions more dollars available. Even a House committee is looking for other ways to trim the budget. By the numbers, the original SB 87 seems “affordable.”

Jindal initially said, after totally resisting the plan, that if there were offsets elsewhere, he would sign onto it. Well, the House in particular has indicated there will be offsets. But it appears that even so, Jindal operatives have done everything possible to kill any form of SB 87. Observers (and anonymous commenters in this space) assert they perceive the first priority of the Administration has been to stop the original SB 87, then if failing to amend it to stop it and resist any attempts to strip it of the poisonous amendments to save it even if it means having to cast a veto on the amended version, and that the last option seems to be actually signing into law the original bill.

If Jindal truly were in favor of it, as soon as it got out of Senate committee he would have gotten in front of the entire issue, saying he would work with legislators to trim other spending, or perhaps call on them to wait until new revenue estimates got declared. Instead, publicly he issued a lukewarm endorsement and allowed these shenanigans to happen in the Senate. (Perhaps as telling was as soon as the initial poison-pill amendment got tacked onto to the bill by a single vote, Sen. Pres. Joel Chaisson popped open his cellphone and began talking.)

And if Jindal really is against the original bill, why doesn’t he just come out and say it? Why doesn’t he argue that looming budget deficits make this an unwise move this year? Why doesn’t he make the case that even extra excess revenues coming in for this year still are too shaky of a ground at this time on which to bring about a tax cut? Why wouldn’t he even say he would wants to wait a year to see how finances develop and if things look good enough, he will find a way to produce a cut next year?

These arguments won’t please some, but they would demonstrate Jindal is a responsible steward who ultimately believes in individual tax cuts as a moral imperative and an economic development tool. Instead, the impression he is giving through this episode is that he has led many to believe he is one thing but by his actions apparently he is a fraud. Either he must explain why an income tax cut would be so monumentally irresponsible at this time, despite his presumed belief that they assist in making government smaller and increasing individual autonomy, or else his actions indicate he never has believed in these things in the first place – whether that genuinely describes his attitude.

That being the case, now his political position is such that to change this growing impression he must head this off now by giving unqualified support for the original SB 87, telling legislators to give him a clean bill and he signs it, or make the case that, given present finances, it is irresponsible. Giving grudging lip service yet apparently working behind the scenes to defeat it is something we would expect of the past tax-and-spend governors of Louisiana, not what many thought they were getting when they voted for Jindal. And without that support, a promising gubernatorial reign is critically wounded.

Simply, had the Jindal Administration willingly wanted to squander political capital, it could not have picked a more effective way to do it as events now unfold.


Anonymous said...

Way to tell it like it is!! .. Sadly it looks as though we are being sold "fools gold".. True leaders have the conviction to be honest with the people..not hide behind sound bites.. In the long run Jindal will be judged by his actions not spin... Eric Asher

Anonymous said...

You've got it right except for one thing - jindal's supporting a terribly bloated budget- looks just like blanco's - he is NOT a fiscal conservative.