One of the individuals at the Capitol, almost daily, is pollster Bernie Pinsonat, of Southern Media and Opinion Research, who is taking measures and looking to check the directions of the winds for around fifteen legislators, who are interested in knowing the big picture items for their own future re-elections. In a Bayoubuzz interview Wednesday, Pinsonat talked about what the legislators are looking for, what is remarkable about the current session, why is this session different from others and just what can we expect over the next few weeks.
Below is a transcript of part one of our discussion focused upon the current legislative session which ends the first week of June. Yesterday, we posted our conversation with Pinsonat regarding the presidential elections.
PINSONAT: This has been a session, it's amazing, I've never seen a session where there's no real agenda, it's still about money. Most of the bills that business didn't like related to undoing so-called education reform are all dead. They've thrown in the towel on that, the teachers union and those groups. There's a few bills left out there, but it's really been the session that--especially for a new governor, there's really been no real-- talk in the paper today about money being spread out or cut back--but, it's real session, we're still dealing with, most guys in the session, most women, are almost bored because there's not much going on
SABLUDOWSKY: Well there's a $600 million so, budget deficit--let me ask you a question, obviously, most of the legislators actually, were able to return to office, those who had another four years, so why would they be concerned this early-there was so much that people were angry angry angry yet the legislators and along with the former governor Jindal caused this problem, that we have, yet they were reelected, so why would they possibly be concerned right now?
PINSONAT: Well four years now much of your Republican and your raising personal income taxes. Look, people are mad at Jindal because he left the state, he was irresponsible, but, I never ran into anyone who is mad at Jindal because he didt raise the taxes the state government. It's a unique situation with Jindal, it's more personal and I keep saying that. It's like he let people down, it was the last great hope or whatever, they thought he was and he was a terrible disappointment. But he's a mixed bag, which is, as far as I'm concerned, I'd rather be a little more unpopular because of things I did, which claims that's what it's about, but you and I know it's more than just, he didn't do anything, he just let us down. Not to get too far off the point, legislators, and especially republicans and this is a red state, this is a super red state, you have the Koch Brothers, you have the Grigsbies, you've got the Republican Party-- all these thosepeople, it's not going to be that one-vote, that tax vote, it's like I said, there are other votes that the casting right now, stop related to trial lawyers, stuff related to teacher unions, stuff related to accountability and all of those things, so it's just piling up and I'm not saying and they're not saying that there are folks who can beat them, but they know that every vote that they cast goes against them or can be used against them, it increases the likelihood that they'll have to raise a lot of money and spend a lot of money to get reelected. Remember, people don't understand, I do these campaigns for them and if you're a white Democrat you can have three or four or $500,000 put up against you to try to defeat you and it's hard to raise that kind of money being a white Democrat. So in every situation it is different, you've got Republicans who can vote for taxes and probably not face any real problem, every legislator is different, but the session is a backdrop, Steve, you're right, it's not about what's going on in the session, it about what happens after the session is over and as of today the budget process based upon the house and the Senate is really depend upon whether they think we'll get out of the special session, so from January to the end of today, we're still being dominated by budget concessions related to how much money we're going to actually have to spend.
PINSONAT: And Republicans don't run on "I spent a lot of money, I want you to reelect me to government". But you have the reality that, you and I know, that we do have too many universities, we do have all these problems--but we also have a mindset in Louisiana, that we need to do all these things but are we going to do it this session or are we going to try to solve all of the problems at once until we can get on a firm footing, John Bell Edwards' position is, until we get on a firm footing, all that stuff that you talking about his wonderful, but I need the money right now because that's not possible to do in the special session or this session until we get a clear mandate--but one of the things I think he has been missing is--I think when he came in, it was hard for me to pull his agenda when his agenda was all about taxes. You can go look back at the poll I did about taxes, you go back and see the poll, I did the year before, when Jindal was getting to cover a $700 million deficit, which Jindal wasn't out there helping, but we did do, but we haven't really had an agenda related to-except let's raise taxes. And I think he's trying to get past that, and then, the question will be--how much reform will he really engage in--will we ever get away from the state being the governments Godfather, when will we be able to give local government the ability to run their own, so all of those things, we'll see what John Bel real reform comes from, in the meantime he has actually been about revenue, and the Republicans, are about, they're reluctantly giving him revenues demanding that they get spending reform, so that's where we are and how this all comes out, we'll probably know about July. But it's an interesting fight and maybe, I'm hopeful that something good will come out for us taxpayers, we do need some reform and obviously, we need some revenues.
From what I can see, everybody's talking about cut cut cut and obviously, there's is going to be some cuts but not the kind of cuts, that--are they going to be able to cut the 600 million dollars?
PINSONAT: Well if he doesn't raise the money he's going to have to cut and that's the big question, right now, Stephen, and right now, I don't see--whether it's the house or the Senate, and he's now, if you follow the governor's comment, he just said, well we'll try to get some business exemptions--I think he's trying to get two and a half, three hundred million dollars out of the special session, because you do not talk to legislators who are interested in as, what they say, hammering the people back home with another personal (tax)...
PINSONAT: Republicans, who control the place, are not interested in raising taxes on upper middle class, so I think were at the end of, he had his bite at the apple and came up 600 Million dollars short as we say and now, this one is about he's waiting on the hight sign from the fiscal committee on what we should be doing, he's hoping that they'll find some ways to raise money based upon business exemptions, taking those way, but I really think that if took all those away, ones that are reasonable, my impression is those it will help you a lot. I don't think you can get much more than that, and a lot of stuff, still won't be available this year
SABLUDOWSKY: A lot of it is also constitutionally dedicated, so
PINSONAT: The income tax, that wouldn't be until next year, it wouldn't start immediately, you wouldn't collected, so all the quick money that we got in the (special) session, so it's a difficult time for a new governor--especially a Democrat, who is trying to take care of his constituency, because they're the ones who primarily elected him and yet, the lack of revenue is certainly a problem for universities, for everyone else. Republicans are saying--it's one of things that bothered me, I'm a little concerned, that, okay, you have a $2 billion deficit,, do you,this question back to you, you think we'll still be $2 billion short a year or two from now? I think that the economy is going to rebound and remember that if we did get three or $400 million, 500 Million dollars and the economy starts growing--what you do with that four or 500 million dollars? That taxpayers position is, "they won't give it back to us, they going to spend it".
SABLUDOWSKY: Yes but look what happened with Stelly in 2008, I mean things do happen, we were flush with money and we made some major adjustments
PINSONAT: No that's the point I'm making, nobody really knows how this is really going to come out, Louisiana has never been in this deep of a hole and we're in a recession, obviously and I don't and end to the oil and gas--oil and gas is normally gonna come in and fill the hole, but this is a unique time in Louisiana's history and all of us can point to things that we should be looking at, but really no one knows in the business (inaudible) and some of the businesses-- like inventory tax-- businesses right now are taking steps so they don't get shorted with the inventory tax. If you live in Baton Rouge and you see all these tank cars in front of these plants, they're not going to be out there much longer, they don't want to pay that inventory tax, they don't pay in other states.
SABLUDOWSKY: So that means cut,
PINSONAT: That means, going back to your other question, and you're correct I don't have the answer because I don't--until you're Jay Dardenne, you probably have a picture of it--but I don't think the average person in Louisiana, including myself, look the legislature don't know what they're doing, what they're cutting. Everyone is in the dark right now.