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LA House Democrats throw Edwards under the bus

Either Louisiana House of Representatives Democrats did their level best to destroy their party’s Gov. John Bel Edwards’ reelection chances, or else he has so little influence that he can’t keep his party from melting down Louisiana government.

Last night (just about early this morning), the 2018 Second Extraordinary Session of the Louisiana Legislature ended in paralysis. The previous hour had seen some productivity for better or worse.

Worse was accepting HB 18 by Democrat state Rep. Katrina Jackson that expanded the state’s Earned Income Tax Credit. A dozen Republicans who should have known better supported it, although at least they placed a hard sunset date on it. To fund it, they raised taxes on mostly higher-income earners. Also bad: the sunset date for this and discussed tax measures was all the way into 2025, leaving little incentive to right-size state government.

Better was the operating budget HB 1 by Republican state Rep. Cameron Henry achieving passage. Henry ended up steering a conference committee to accepting a Senate version of the operating budget that relied upon about $500 million in temporarily renewing sales taxes and removing exemptions on a smattering of others, and also set out a schedule of cuts excluding principally health care in case that revenue didn’t manifest.

It didn’t. Failing first, HB 12 by Democrat state Rep. Walt Leger would jacked the sales tax back up by a half percent at the start of next fiscal year, providing all needed for HB 1 (which gained approval a few minutes later). It fell just seven votes short of the two-thirds majority needed to pass a tax only because 21 GOP members joined with Democrats voting to supersize state government.

Minutes later, HB 27 by GOP state Rep. Lance Harris, which would have pegged the sales tax back on the books at a third of a cent to raise just over $100 million fewer than HB 12, fell much shorter. While about half of Republicans voted for it, only three Democrats did. A baker’s dozen of Republicans rejected both.

With time about up, Leger brought back up HB 12. It fared even worse, barely capturing a majority.

Democrats in the House, joined by a few select Republicans such as state Rep. and Secretary of State candidate Julie Stokes, as the clock struck midnight whooped and hollered to pass something. But the fact is Democrats could have gotten 80 percent of HB 12 in HB 27 had three-fifths of the over 90 percent who voted against the latter joined the two-thirds of Republicans in approving it.

Instead, they got nothing except an almost-certain third special session of the year that Edwards will call because he’s just about back to where he started at the session’s start— a budget hundreds of millions of dollars smaller than he would like. He vetoed the previous attempt like that.

The events that unfolded show he has little control over his own party. A number of Democrats originally voted to pass HB 27 in a form hardly different from its conference committee report and were supposed to have done so again as part of a deal with HB 18 passage. Yet when the time came, they reneged.

So, Edwards still can’t claim he’s done anything to change the state’s fiscal environment, and still finds himself baying for higher taxes. All he accomplished this session was some minor wealth redistribution by beefing up a counterproductive tax credit. And, he has the chance to make himself look like the decimator of state government by vetoing another budget or, absent any future tax increases, implementing it.

None of this helps his reelection chances. And he can thank his own party for that.

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