After the special session that saw billions of dollars in future tax increases set into law, the state GOP sent out a request highlighting that Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards led the charge to make these reality, asking readers to donate to the party to fight hikes such as these. It left unmentioned that the two main pieces of legislation in this regard had majority Republican support.
Left at that, one might judge the appeal as a form of selective outrage. And certainly Republicans had alternatives besides most of them signing on to a sales tax increase for 27 months and stripping away some exemptions to that tax of varying amounts over that time span. In that session that could deal with tax matters, they could have created a more efficient and rational fiscal system by getting rid of the Earned Income Tax credit and zeroing out the Motion Picture Investor Tax Credit, among other things, than by tax increases.
However, consider the presence of the mortician of any reform residing in the Governor’s Mansion, who could rally enough legislative opposition to prevent passage of such beneficial changes through veto threats. Time also worked against these solutions; the next couple of fiscal years may have large forecast deficits looming, but the current year’s and the multiplier effect involved – as the year moves along at one spending rate too extravagant, every day that passes lowers further the necessary rate for the remainder of the year to balance out to the point it becomes impossible to fund government operations – presented the most concern.
Put another way, the quickest and easiest bucks come from tax increases, especially with an obstructionist-in-chief at the end of the lawmaking line. Thus, it’s understandable that Republican legislators on the whole headed in this direction on this one occasion and this one only.
And distinctly different partisan behavior did emerge on these tax issues, lending the differentiation more credibility. While for the bill to increase the marginal rate in the House the GOP voted 44-16 and in the Senate 20-5 in favor, every one of the 41 House and 13 Senate Democrats present voted in favor, while for the bill to strip exemptions the GOP votes in favor where 33-27 and 15-10 in, respectively, the House and Senate, Democrats repeated their voting unanimity in favor as with the other bill excepting of state Sen. Greg Tarver.
So let’s give the GOP’s state elected officials a pass on this one and validate the letter’s claim – a luxury future conditions will not afford them. In front of them they have a whole regular session, which cannot entertain tax matters, to make rational decisions in curtailing the growth of government to balance the budget. With their tax votes, they bought time to restructure the state’s fiscal structure next year. They have no excuse not to send bills then, when the regular session can include tax items, to Edwards that even if he vetoes them present plenty of opportunity to work out other solutions that don’t involve tax increases. Or, they can force Edwards to lie in the bed he makes with vetoes, by telling him either he signs their bills that cut spending or he makes the cuts himself, as forced by the Constitution.
Do that, and the note appealing for money does not seem inconsistent. But acquiesce in renewing or expanding the sales tax increases and/or triggering others with income while not eliminating unproductive tax exemptions and not curbing spending meaningfully, and the letter comes off as unprincipled and self-serving. We won’t know the verdict for awhile, but it’s all up to Louisiana Republican leaders and elected officials to determine that.