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Cannot judge cheeky appeal as hypocritical yet

Certainly cheeky, but let’s not write off the recent fundraising appeal made by Louisiana’s Republican Party as hypocritical – yet.

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.


Edwards outlay strategy complements tax hike desire

Yesterday this space reviewed a motivation for Gov. John Bel Edwards’ declaration that he would aim for only larger projects, not local ones, comprising Louisiana’s capital outlay spending for the future. He may have another related one up his sleeve.

By making this proclamation, Edwards may acknowledge political realities, in that, unlike past governors, he has no guarantee that he can summon majorities on the State Bond Commission. If unable to do that, he cannot use his influence over the body to have it decide as he wishes, meaning he cannot promise project approvals to specific legislators in exchange for their support on other issues. Thus, he may accrue more political capital by declaring his unwillingness to trade projects for other legislation in favor of concentrating on whittling down the considerable statewide project backlog.

But by making this switch, he also bolsters the chance of achieving another policy objective of his, growing government. Constitutionally and statutorily, Louisiana only may borrow up to six percent of its net tax supported debt, defined as revenues that flow into the general fund and from all dedicated revenues that go into their particular funds but not including federal funds or undedicated self-generated revenues. Two-thirds majorities of both legislative chambers may override the limit for a specific project.


Edwards faces reality with capital outlay pledge

So Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards wants to change the way the state has dealt with capital outlay projects, does he? We’ll see if this doesn’t end up part a bow to reality, part wishful thinking, and whether the idea ends up on the scrap heap.

Traditionally, when the Legislature sends its laundry list to the State Bond Commission in the capital outlay bill (and some other items could wind up in the general appropriations bill or even elsewhere), that instrument contains a larger request for dollars than the state’s bonding capacity permits. Then the SBC must decide which projects to fund, and the governor historically has had outsized influence in this process because of the panel’s composition – the treasurer (chairman), governor, lieutenant governor, secretary of state, attorney general, commissioner of administration, leaders of both legislative chambers, committee chairmen of the two “money” committees in each chamber, and one other legislator from each chamber, or representatives of any of these individuals. As in the past the governor had considerable informal input into the process of selection of these legislators to their posts and usually the other minor state executives came from the same party as he, therefore he could command majorities on it.

Nonrecursivity if not incest marked this relationship. In part, he wielded this influence because of the governor’s line item veto power; he could use that against projects favored by a legislator in exchange for support for his initiatives before they even got to the SBC without fear of the Legislature overriding those (it never has). Thus, governors backed legislative allies into key positions by telling them their items would survive, thereby earning them spots on the SBC where they and the governor (and his employee the commissioner) would roll plenty of logs so that everybody’s projects got the green light. Note that acquiescence by the Legislature in not only stuffing too many requests into the bill but also then not rebelling against this custom made it work.


NW LA trails state in curbing harmful smoking impact

Attention now turns to northwest Louisiana as the last major holdout in the state to affirming the rights of nonsmokers, likely in response to an overblown fear of loss of casino revenues.

With a proposed ordinance backed by a majority of its Metropolitan Council, Baton Rouge soon looks to become the next major metropolitan area in the state to ban smoking essentially in any indoor place of commerce (except for some hotel rooms and smoke shops), including outdoor attachments to these, in some other outdoor spaces, and e-cigarettes included. When it happens, this will leave as the only major cities left in the state without a city or parish ordinance doing the same (in order of population) Shreveport, Lake Charles, Bossier City, and Kenner.

Not coincidentally, these cities house 10 of the 15 riverboat casinos in the state, and Shreveport/Bossier and Lake Charles monthly duel to have the largest market. Including the land-based casino, New Orleans, which banned smoking in this manner almost a year ago, as a market including the Kenner boat trails, and Baton Rouge takes in the smallest amount of revenue.