Search This Blog


Myths drive politically preening senators favoring SB 335

A majority in the Louisiana Senate nearly broke their arms patting themselves on their backs, bringing a new epitome to the idea of self-congratulation when they voted for SB 335 which would roll back a tax break for people – nearly half of all taxpaying households – on deductions, some affecting the most disadvantaged in the state such as those who have high medical bills. In fact, such a vote displayed a virulent mix of disingenuousness, ignorance, irresponsibility, and self-deception that sets new standards even for that body.

From the rhetoric emanating from many in that chamber, a vote for the bill was based upon one or more, perhaps all, of the following myths:

  • That it does not change the current tax structure in Louisiana. This is a lie repeated so often by its author state Sen. Lydia Jackson that either she must be entirely brazen or uncompromisingly stupid, perhaps both. She asserts that the current standard of 65 percent of the deductions would not be changed to 100 percent as is current law but stay the same, so therefore it’s not a tax increase. But the law did in fact change 158 days ago and for tax year 2009 people already have made financial decisions with tax consequences based upon the 100 percent level already in place. Changing it back is nothing more than a bait-and-switch. It’s a tax increase obvious to anybody who can fog a mirror and rub two brain cells together.
  • That this was a “hard” vote requiring expert balancing of preferences. It was actually a very simple vote as state Sen. Buddy Shaw pointed out: vote for it and be a hypocrite, or not. It was nauseating to watch several senators try to squirm their way out of this reality, droning on about how difficult it was (Bob Kostelka challenged opponents to try to do a better job on these kind of issues than he – uh, not a smart thing to say; the line of capable people from his district who could would be longer than that of legislators with state-reserved tickets queuing to get into the Baton Rouge super-regional college baseball action), looking for all the world like ugly stepsisters cooing to glass on metal, “Mirror, mirror, on the wall ….” New flash to these ignoramuses: political preening doesn’t turn the gamesmanship (as noted below) into statesmanship.
  • That it is in response to some “lack of plan” in place to deal with significant cuts to higher education. This also is at best confused, at worst maliciously false. The governor has a plan for handling cuts: have higher education absorb them now before they get worse in the coming years. The House has a plan as well: have higher education absorb somewhat fewer of them. Just because you don’t like politically other credible and realistic plans doesn’t mean they don’t exist.
  • That it sends money to higher education. Absolutely nothing in SB 335 directs money to higher education. It merely puts the money into a fund which the bill stipulates may be used only to fund higher education. It does not appropriate the money, and that portion of the bill could be changed at any time.
  • That is it is constitutional. Besides the problem of creating a retroactive tax increase, the Louisiana Constitution’s Article III Section 16(B) puts it bluntly and unambiguously: “All bills for raising revenue or appropriating money shall originate in the House of Representatives, but the Senate may propose or concur in amendments, as in other bills.” It’s ludicrous that its Senate supporters can’t even see or admit the contradiction in their rhetoric when they say it will raise revenue for higher education, yet claim it’s a constitutional bill when it comes from the Senate with a fiscal note showing it raises revenue. It is irresponsible for the Senate to be wasting time and taxpayer resources on a matter that clearly is unconstitutional.

    That too many senators continue to believe in these myths shows either they live in a fantasy land with no connection to reality (not a new charge levied against them, to be sure) or they temperamentally are unsuited for their offices. Let a citizenry riled by this insolence judge which is what for whom.

    Anonymous said...

    "The governor has a plan for handling cuts: have higher education absorb them now before they get worse in the coming years. " Who's to say that things will get worse in the coming years? If gas prices go up, the state is flush again. I realize that budget cuts are necessary now, but why must higher education and health care bear the brunt of them? Those are the two areas where our state consistently does the poorest. And higher education impacts the local economy in many significant and diverse ways. If we want to create good jobs in La and attract business, we need a well-educated population (otherwise we're stuck with chicken farms - can't we do better?). As far as far people making plans based on tax breaks, I too made plans based on my three-year teaching contract at LSU that could easily be broken if the proposed cuts come to pass. If La universities fire faculty with tenure and contracts, they will never be able to recruit top professors again. Other states have realized this and are capitalizing on it. Perhaps if Louisianians were better educated, they'd make the right choice too. These cuts will hurt everyone in the state.

    Anonymous said...

    excellent points, anonymous. pwned.