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House GOP bending, not yet breaking, on tax hikes

Yesterday Louisianans dodged a potential tax increase, despite the attempt of an overeager Republican lawmaker to put a fig leaf of respectability on it, but remain in the woods on the issue.

HB 11 by state Rep. Rob Shadoin, a backer of Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards in last year’s elections, with this bill carried Edwards’ desire to raise revenue by limiting deductibility on individual state income taxes federal income tax deductions in excess of the standard. When fully ramped up in future years, this would separate from individual taxpayers an extra more than $132 million annually.

This garnered skepticism from Republicans on the House Ways and Means Committee who, if not wanting to see anybody’s taxes go up after about $2 billion worth of hikes over the past 12 months, at least wanted revenue neutrality as part of larger tax simplification. This means that in the near term any tax code adjustments would not change revenue flows coming into state government, although the simpler code over a few years would create greater incentives for economic development that would bring higher revenues stemming from the economic growth it triggered than without the change.


Edwards wants taxes, spending over reasonable cuts

Monday the Louisiana Legislature closed out another regular session, amid a sanctimonious attempt by the Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards Administration to resist using tens of millions of dollars in available funding for spending it claims has high priority in favor of future efforts during the just-commenced special session to raise taxes.

After careful reading of the Constitution and statute, and with the concurrence of Republican state Treasurer John Kennedy who in the past came to the same conclusion independently, Republican House Speaker Taylor Barras will wish to have included in the budget, and forwarded a resolution to Kennedy to confirm, that the amount will flow into the Bond Security and Redemption Fund from dedicated sources, freeing a like amount for use in operating expenses. Most non-self-generated revenue sources in the state must flow into the BSRF, a device to collect funds prior to their distributions to their assigned accounts, to ensure that sufficient capital exists for debt payments.

In essence, at the end of the regular session the House identified $74 million in spending attached to relatively lower-priority functions of state government and instead of passing it through the BSRF to its designed destinations would shunt it to debt service. That would add that amount of available cash otherwise allocated for repaying debt to the general fund for spending elsewhere.


Disingenuous Edwards speech reveals desperation

Perhaps more than the expected dosages of hypocrisy and schoolmarm sanctimony present in Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwardsaddress to the 2016 Second Extraordinary Session of the Louisiana Legislature, a hint of desperation stood out. As it should, for no doubt Edwards feels the situation slipping away from him after the results of the just-concluded regular session.

As has become typical in his communications regarding policy, Edwards in these commits the follies of which he accuses his political opponents or alleges he avoids. He claimed his budget, emerging largely intact from the regular session process, represented a breath of honest air into a process he accused in the past of being otherwise, even as he argued it cut “critical services” and thereby demanded this addendum session to gather more revenues through tax increases.

Yet a nontrivial chunk of the budget, relative to its single largest expenditure, Medicaid, he built upon questionable numbers derived from unsustainable assumptions through calculations kept from the public. And who in their right mind can call paying the tuition for below-average students to attend college, the most generous such program in the country so watered down that it acts as an entitlement rather than a driver of excellence, a “critical service?” There’s nothing honest about a budget built upon these, among other, mischaracterizations.


Latest numbers make Kennedy big Senate favorite

Although still five months out from the election, state Treasurer John Kennedy’s position relative to capturing the U.S. Senate continues to improve at his opponents’ expense.

While a Southern Media Opinion and Research poll in late May used a sample on the small side, Republican Kennedy’s lead over his opponents made the larger margin of error resulting from that essentially irrelevant; with 32 percent of the intended vote, he led the next highest receiver Republican Rep. Charles Boustany by 22 points, followed by Democrat Public Service Commissioner Foster Campbell at 9 percent, Republican Rep. John Fleming with 5 percent, Republican former Senate candidate retiree Rob Maness at 4 percent, Democrat former lieutenant governor candidate trial lawyer Caroline Fayard with 4 percent, no party former legislator Troy Hebert at 2 percent, and Public Service Commissioner Eric Skrmetta (who technically has not announced running but did form an exploratory committee) with 1 percent. 32 percent of voters voiced no opinion, and apparently declared candidate and former Republican Rep. Joseph Cao did not figure in the questions.

That undecided total disproportionately seemed a function of more liberal voters dithering over Campbell and Fayard. 42 percent of Democrats expressed indecisions, as did 52 percent of blacks. By contrast, GOP identifiers and whites had undecided rates at half these.