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Downs' rant shows both thinking and leadership failures

Last week, HB 456 by state Rep. Hollis Downs met a chilly committee reception, so much so that its author yanked the bill before a sure defeat was headed its way. After his withdrawal of the bill that would have tied increases in the gasoline tax to the Consumer Price Index, Downs ranted about how he saw Gov. Bobby Jindal administration’s view on this: “We offer no solutions but are opposed to taxes … I call on leadership to step forward and be leaders, not just philosophers, and find a way to address this issue.”

Obviously, Downs hasn’t been paying attention because he missed the preference issued by Jindal on this long ago that is addressing this issue: cut government spending and lives within government’s means. More than ever this is sage advice as raising taxes in a recession is about the most reliable way to lengthen and deepen an economic downturn. Of course, Downs not only has a history of appearing unable to understand the fundamental rule that government which does least does best, but also his demonstrated shrillness is favor of finding more roads has been contradicted by past action.

Concerning his penchant for approving of big government, last year Downs not only voted for a self-serving pay raise for himself, but also for Public Service Commissioners, both vetoed by Jindal. In past years he has voted for bills to add fees to driver’s licenses (presumably to combat litter), to support grandiose spending on a new hospital in New Orleans, to go over the state’s spending cap for no good reason, to continue to fund vacant positions in state government rather than shed them, to increase the minimum wage for lower-wage state employees, to force the sale of ethanol fuel, to allow a sweetheart deal for legislators’ benefits, to put minimum price controls on gasoline, and to add a “sick tax” that would raise health care prices. And if Downs was so keen on getting money to whittle down the roads construction backlog, then why did he vote in 2006 to allow more money to be poured into one of the great boondoggles of recent state history, the Poverty Point Reservoir?

The fact is, Downs doesn’t see “leadership” because the leadership being provided fundamentally disagrees with his desire for big government. (This preference by Downs is demonstrated by his scores over the last four years on my Louisiana Legislature Log’s voting scorecard, which assigns higher scores to legislators who prefer smaller government. His scores from 2005 through 2008 of 58, 39, 30, and 40 show that in aggregate he is more likely to favor the opposite and are well below the averages of his Republican colleagues.) It is indicative of simpleton thinking to be unable to follow the translation of philosophical advocacy – no new taxes needed because government can live within it means – to the practical of cutting government spending without tax hikes.

Downs is free to preach a gospel of higher taxes to match his past practice of higher spending preferences. But when his ideas are defeated, it’s not because there is a lack of anything coming from his opposition, and to accuse as such is more reflective of his own inability to understand the fundamental philosophy of the majority that in and of itself indicates a lack of ability to lead on his part.

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