Tuesday, 26 April 2011 15:44
Louisiana Legislative Diary: The Blood-Letting Begins
 

Stephen Sabludowsky--Bayoubuzz PublisherDear Diary:

 

On day one at the Louisiana regular session, the Louisiana House and Senate huddled together in the lower chamber to listen to Governor Jindal’s opening day speech.

 

Similar to his last address to the legislature a few weeks ago, the Governor’s address was relatively short providing little details.  He focused upon his accomplishments in economic development and his insistence there would be no taxes.  

 

While the governor did not go into detail about items such as UNO-SUNO merger or the Louisiana budget, he did provide his reasons and philosophies for heading the “no taxes” charge.  {sidebar id=1}

 

After listening to the governor, I interviewed Sen. Crowe who was pounded unfairly this weekend on CNN regarding his legislation which most are calling the Louisiana “birther” bill.  While I do not totally agree with the Senator on this issue, he explained his reasons for the legislation. Crowe said it was a shame that attention had to be spent upon this issue involving President Obama, but his constituents wanted this legislation and that he felt there were some unanswered questions begging resolution.

 

Actually, Crowe said his legislation was not focused upon Obama but was party and person neutral.  I know that the opposition to the legislation believes the birther legislation is a way to attack the presidency who will be running for re-election.

 

I then interviewed Rep. Patricia Smith, who is Chairman of the Louisiana legislative black caucus.  Smith responded to my questions involving SUNO-UNO merger, redistricting and the budget.  Smith felt that the Governor is focusing upon a black university when other higher education facilities such as LSU-Alexandria are performing poorly.  She also noted that should the merger occur, millions of dollars would be loss in FEMA money and funds for historically black universities.

 

On the issue of redistricting, Rep. Smith said it was not appropriate to reduce the number of black majority districts due to race but that is what she said occurred.  

 

Moments later, I ran into Attorney General Buddy Caldwell.  In talking to him, the extent of the Louisiana budget problem really struck home. 

It appears that the Governor wants to cut the Attorney General’s budget by almost half.  I am just imaging how difficult it will be to run his office with such a reduction.  After that discussion, I began to wonder which services would be eliminated in his office and within the other  state departments.  Obviously, the proverbial budget mess has not yet hit the fan.   

 

I also talked to certain politicos about the upcoming elections.  The topic of the day was John Georges.  News broke last week that Georges had contributed over ten million dollars for a future campaign.  However, he did not disclose which statewide race he would run.   It appears there is a split of opinions as to whether Georges will run for Governor, Lt. Governor or Secretary of State.  It appears that for now, Georges is remaining mum on that matter and probably pretty coy.

 

As I reflect back at the day’s events, I began to appreciate the uncertainty of the Louisiana political and budgetary  scenarios.   While Governor Jindal has insisted that he would not raise taxes, it seems he is ok on “fees” which essentially is like a tax but only hits those people who use the state service at issue such as college tuition.  Judging from the incredible budget cut anticipated from Caldwell’s office, I can bet there will be some mean and hostile tug-of-war skirmishes over the next two months and beyond.

 

I thought, despite the efforts by some to put a smoother coat on the budgetary problems, this session is going to be a slugfest—especially coming off the bitter redistricting weeks and particularly due to upcoming elections.  If we add in the raw emotions being generated already  regarding the UNO-SUNO merger, tobacco tax, selling state properties, and the “birther” bill, it is a no brainer that the slugfest could be a free-for- all, instead.

 

Speaking of free--one of the areas of government finances where there seems to be some play tax credits and extensions where reportedly the state is losing over seven billion dollars.  Last week, Speaker Tucker told me (see video interviews) that he wanted to put all of these programs on the table.  He did say that he would be opposed to cutting the film tax credits and Governor Jindal gave a speech last week where he said the same about that industry and digital media.   From what I can gather, a number of other legislators are looking at this “pot of money” with the hopes to minimize the budget knives affecting their constituents, but, you can bet that special interests groups which we all are part of will fight tooth and nail to be insulated.

 

So, diary, I know that it will be one of the most heated legislative sessions in history with redistricting, elections, race, Obama, healthcare, all causing background noise.  Something tells me I will be seeing you pretty often this spring.   Something tells me there won’t be too many “tooth fairies” floating around this year that can save the day.

by Stephen Sabludowsky

Jindal Talks About Tax Increases  

 

Sen. Crowe Discusses His Controversial Legislation

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