The House Ways and Means Committee deferred action Monday on all tax repeal bills, with the committee chairman, Rep. Joel Robideaux, saying the panel doesn't intend to hear them this session. The decision appears to end any chance for Jindal to get passage of his controversial, yet, signature legislative agenda item for the legislative session.
House Speaker Chuc Kleckley issued the following statement:
“It would not be fiscally responsible if we moved a bill removing the state income tax without replacing the revenue.
From the beginning, my priority has been to make sure we have precise numbers and that we replace the revenue. Members I have spoken to since this issue began, in the fall, have agreed with this approach.
Representative Robideaux and I have discussed how to proceed with this week’s hearings and I am in support of his decisions.”
That decision was enunciated by Robideaux’s opening testimony with his own statement indicating difficulty for Jindal’s efforts to revamp the Louisiana tax system.
Robideaux said, "Over the last several months we have all grappled with the issues involved when considering the repeal of the income tax – either immediately, or over time.
I personally want to thank the Governor for opening up debate on this issue. It is my hope that the work done these past few months can serve as the foundation for an ongoing debate on how to best reform our state’s tax structure.
Since the Governor’s address to the legislature last week, I have spoken with numerous members of the House including legislative leaders. I have talked at length with Speaker Kleckley about our shared concerns and how to best resolve this matter.
I have also reviewed the analysis of the policy community – CABL, PAR and LABI.
As a result, my preference is that we should indefinitely defer consideration of these bills. This is a difficult, but I believe, necessary action.
That being said, I respect the legislative process, and since I've scheduled the bills for a hearing, if a member wants their bill heard, I will honor that request."
Robideaux, a former Independent and now a Republican from Lafayette, indicated that the House would not support legislation coming from the Senate.
Last Monday, in a surprise turn of events, Jindal said during his speech opening the legislative session that he would “park” his tax reform legislation and urged the legislature to create its own bill to remove the income tax. While many observers felt the governor would be taking a hands-off approach in allowing the legislature to guide tax repeal legislation through the session, according to prominent legislators, he was very much driving the legislation engine.
Jindal’s efforts to change the Louisiana tax system was applauded by national conservative organization but failed to pick up much support within the state.
The Louisiana Republican Party, which had remained quiet during the entire tax discussion, did make an effort to buttress Jindal’s efforts last week after Jindal’s “park” announcement.
In an email, the party’s executive director, Jason Dore wrote, “Governor Jindal yesterday announced his plan to phase out the state income tax in Louisiana.
Please call your legislator today….Ask your senator and representative to get rid of the state income tax.
Later during the week, the Republican Party also wrote there was dissension within the Louisiana democratic party on the issue. Another GOP email said in part, “There is a growing awkward rift in the Democratic Caucus. A number of democratic legislators support the idea of tax reform and reducing income tax rates while the Democratic Caucus Chair, Rep. John Bel Edwards, appears to be trying to kill any and all tax reform efforts. Rep. Edwards believes the tax code is not broken and not in need of reform, but clearly many of his colleagues disagree….”
However, the Governor, who has aspirations to lead the national GOP and even to become president, despite the efforts of the state’s GOP, could not convince the legislators of his own party to take up his banner.
The Louisiana legislature is controlled by the republicans and all statewide elected officials are republicans.
In recent weeks, a Southern Media Opinion research poll indicated that Jindal’s popularity had dropped to 37.8% with evidence that his approvals were much lower than even that number.
Today’s legislative defeat is a stark indication that Governor Jindal, who has had substantial control over the legislature, even hand-picking its leaders, could find driving down the legislative highway very bumpy as legislatures puts its foot heavily on the brake and wrest control of the steering wheel.
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