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Futile ploy shows LA House gains upper hand

If that’s the best Louisiana Senate leaders and Gov. John Bel Edwards can do, then clearly the Louisiana House of Representatives leadership is winning the battle of wills over the size of government, irrespective of the hypocrisy involved.

Yesterday, Senate leaders had a hissy fit over the House’s reluctance to pass through anything but small tax increases needed to fuel Edwards’ desired size of Louisiana government, that the governor claims requires $450 million more in hikes. With Edwards already having grabbed as hostages the sick and college students, by saying previously he would close the shortfall by shuttering hospitals and slashing tuition reimbursements rather than make small cuts to many much lower priority functions, Senate Revenue and Fiscal Affairs Committee chairman state Sen. JP Morrell corralled some Girl Scouts, scholastic sports boosters, and many more by announcing he would not move on HB 51 by state Rep. Jim Morris to remove sales tax on items sold by them until the House coughed up more bills increasing more taxes. In the waning moments of the first special session of the year, Act 25, alleged inadvertently by many legislators, taxed these items and many others that now Morris’ bill seeks to undo.

Of course Morrell, undoubtedly with the blessing of Edwards and Sen. Pres. John Alario, in doing so employs the same sitzkrieg strategy as did state Rep. Neil Abramson, chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, concerning the state’s capital outlay bill at the conclusion of the regular session – a move roundly criticized by the likes of Edwards, Alario, and Morrell. The irony and hypocrisy of Morrell’s move at present seems to escape him.

As does the futility of such a gesture. The Legislative Fiscal Office could not come up with an estimate of the forgone tax revenues from enacting HB 51, but it likely relatively won’t deprive state government of much. Still, to a small degree the Senate cuts off its nose despite its face by refusing to move on this, perhaps hoping the looming aggravation from the collection of the tax for the next two years (it sunsets at the end of fiscal year 2018) will incur the wrath of the citizenry, causing it to gripe at representatives to increase taxes on itself some $250 million more (as the House already has forwarded an indirect tax on health care premiums and a couple of others to the Senate all together worth nearly $200 million).

Yeah, right. This grasping at straws shows the desperation of Edwards et. al., and to embarrass them completely the House simply must call the bluff. House leaders can tell their story that they sent over the bill and held the line on additional taxes while the Edwards and the Senate leadership can tell their story about how they refused to offer tax relief on these picayunish but exasperating-to-collect items unless they squeezed $250 million more in return from the people. Edwards and his Senate cronies will capitulate and look like fools in the process.

Naturally, Edwards will mount a full-court press to get the House to cough up more taxes, by making various veto threats of bills and line items from the regular session and special session. Yet if the House holds firm, it magnifies its power for the rest of Edwards’ term (single, the way things are going). The worst thing to do with an extortionist is to pay him off, because then he just keeps asking for more. Shut him down now and he loses control over your future.

House leaders need not only to laugh off the Senate’s stalling, but also to double-dog dare its leaders to make themselves look silly. Maybe by doing so they’ll realize aligning themselves with Edwards, as he tries to push public policy to the political left against the entire center-right populace’s preferences, will win them neither preferred policies nor even future elections.

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