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Two-faced Edwards obscures big govt agenda

For Louisiana Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards, it’s all smoke and mirrors with his fiscal agenda, obscuring Louisianans from realizing how he wants to take their wealth to grow government.

The past month has not presented an ideal period for Edwards to impress the state, courtesy of Republican Pres. Donald Trump’s delivery of substantial federal tax cuts that will lower amounts paid by roughly 80 percent of filers. By contrast, Edwards wants to raise taxes to maintain inflated state government spending.

Still, Trump’s triumph gave Edwards a chance to unveil a clever distraction from his tax-and-spend governance. He called upon the state’s private utilities to provide rate reductions to consumers – residents pay the lowest rates in the country already and commercial users the 12th-lowest – as a result of lower federal taxes on their incomes.

Rate-setting, done by the Public Service Commission, is a pretty complicated matter so whether companies can pass along any or all of the cuts is uncertain. The PSC likely will take up the matter at its next regular meeting.

But, only a couple of weeks before, Edwards had advocated tax increases on consumers of utilities. Specifically, in the broad sketch of his tax proposals designed to close a billion-dollar fiscal year 2019 budget – in which Edwards prefers largely to keep current spending levels – he recommended repealing the break businesses receive on utilities. That exemption of three of the four cents has been suspended for almost two years but will revert back on Jul. 1. Edwards would have any exemption eliminated, except for industrial customers who would have half shielded.

In other words, Edwards jawbones utilities to drop their rates, yet at the same time he wants to increase taxes on their product. So, while the one hand apparently triggers rate cuts, prices on goods go back up because now the tax Edwards would impose with the other hand will make firms pass onto consumers that additional cost. All the while, he hopes the public credits him with its paying less through rate reduction while behind its back he works to make its members pay more when engaged in commerce.

He reached the same level of hypocrisy when, last year after Trump declared he would end the federal government’s illegal subsidization of insurance companies participating in insurance markets under the misnamed Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, he joined other governors in calling for restoration of such payments by legal means. Without this propping up, insurers will raise rates even more than the dramatic premium escalation the law has prompted.

However, when Edwards proclaimed Medicaid expansion into force early in his term, that automatically imposed tax increases on insurance premiums (including those the state pays through its Healthy Louisiana program) and on many state hospitals. These get passed on to ratepayers, consumers, and taxpayers.

So, if Edwards was serious about health insurance rate relief, he would work to eliminate that tax to be consistent with the request lodged to federal policy-makers. But, he isn’t: it’s all for show where he publicly wants others to give his constituents a break while behind the scenes he soaks them to pay for his profligacy.

Many politicians do have two faces. But Edwards seems particularly unaware and/or unashamed of that particular condition of his, given his enthusiasm to project a certain image at odds with his actual political views. Making himself seem something he isn’t not only elevates the chances of getting the people to trust him enough to let him cram substantial tax increases down their throats for next year, but also hikes the probability that he can gain reelection.

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