What's happening to the Louisiana Republican Party these past couple of weeks of the legislative session?
Hardly a day passes without the Republican leadership blasting a group called the Fiscal Hawks for it's own Louisiana budget fix. There has been a certain sense of irony in the party's attempts to shoot down this high-flying group.
The fiscal hawks, are considered by many to be the most-fiscally conservative members of the state’s Republican party. They have been critical of the way that Louisiana Republican Governor, Bobby Jindal, has handled affairs over the past years. Their goal has been to balance the budget without the frequent mid-year emergency cuts that have become the budgetary signature during the Jindal years. They have attempted to put an end to Jindal’s utilization of one-time-money that has also been contingent upon certain future events occurring such as the uncertainty of the selling of state properties.
The passions emitted from the GOP's official e-blasts indicate something more than the disagreement over taxes and spending. It appears their anger against the hawks and the Republican majority of the House is based upon something much more visceral.
My take? The Louisiana Republican Party leadership and its partner in-politics, the governor, are beginning to sense the floor drop from beneath their collective feet. We are feeling the fissures of a political earthquake beginning to make itself heard. The Louisiana politics landscape is being reshaped. Over the past decade, ever since the very young Jindal prevailed over powerful fixtures within the Republican Party to become the party’s leader, only to lose to Kathleen Blanco for Governor in 2003 gubernatorial runoff, Jindal and the party chairman, Roger Villere, have barked the orders and everyone else have fallen in line.
There have been brief party skirmishes such as the recent Louisiana Republican Party Presidential primary caucus brouhaha and occassional election combats where republican took on republican for political office. Still, party discipline, as spoken by the Jindal-Villere team has been the rule of law. However, forces of dissension are resonating. The Louisiana budget is in disarray this legislative session while other states are experiencing surpluses; The governor's popularity has been nose-diving; High-profiled Republicans are positioning themselves for a gubernatorial or high state-wide office run. Governor Jindal's and party leaders' grip over Louisiana republicans are weakening and the party is experiencing fragmentation.
With the Senator Mary Landrieu race fast-approaching, we surely will see a unification against the Democrat, however, that will only be short-lived. By the time the battle is over, Jindal will have grown more lame duck feathers, younger party activists will want their voices heard--all resulting of the ebbing of the Jindal-Villere axis of power.
The emotions emanating from the republican letter following the House of Representive remarkable in-your-face vote on the budget foreshadows what seems to be the inevitable. The party bosses can feel the ground rumble. The changes are coming. It is more of a question of when, than if.
Below is the e-blast from the Louisiana GOP party sent out this Friday evening:
House Passes Smaller Package of Tax Increases Last week, we that learned a group of Republican state representatives who call themselves "Fiscal Hawks" were planning team up up with the House Democratic Caucus to cut a deal and design a budget plan filled with $1.3 billion in tax increases. We made the decision to do all we could to stop the members of our delegation from making this huge mistake. With an incredible amount of help from the Tea Party of Louisiana, tea party members throughout the state, LABI, the Jefferson Chamber of Commerce, business groups across Louisiana and grassroots conservatives like you, we convinced Republican House members to withdraw the proposal.
Today, the Louisiana House of Representatives passed HB 571, HB 653 and HB 696, three bills that contain tax increases, primarily in the form of the suspension or reduction of tax credits and deductions. The legislation was promoted by the "Fiscal Hawks" and the leaders of Democrat caucus, including Representatives John Bel Edwards and Katrina Jackson. The Republican Party of Louisiana opposed these bills in accordance with our long standing policy to oppose any bill or package of bills which result in a net increase in taxes.
In the middle of today's debate on the budget, "Fiscal Hawk" leaders surprised members of the Republican delegation with new amendments that were not previously a part of the package. One of these amendments suspended an important part of last year's education reform package. The other suspended an important economic development incentive, thereby endangering several pending projects including the trumpeted economic development wins of Sassol and Lockheed Martin. Conservatives attempted to fight these amendments, but the amendments ultimately succeeded as the Legislative Black Caucus would not support the Hawk-Democrat plan without them.
While this news is certainly disappointing, the package that passed today is much smaller and far less damaging to our state than the previous Hawk-Democrat plan. We still oppose the three bills passed today as long as they are not offset by tax cuts elsewhere. We do not favor a net increase in government revenues. We are especially concerned about the effect of additional business taxes at a time when Louisiana's economy is growing. We will work with conservatives in the Louisiana Senate to eliminate the tax increases the House passed today. And of course, our great conservative Governor, Bobby Jindal, always has the option of vetoing legislation. While most House Republicans supported the tax increases referenced above, a number did not. And 16 of our GOP representatives stood out from the crowd and led the fight against increasing the size of government.
Some of these champions endured ridicule and pressure for opposing all new revenue. Below is a list of the 16 Republican conservatives who led the fight in the House of Representatives against higher taxes and bigger government. Please send them a quick email thanking them for standing up for us. It should not be a surprise nor a secret to anyone that the Republican Party of Louisiana is opposed to raising taxes on families and businesses. Opposition to raising taxes is a fundamental plank in our Party platform. We always have--and will continue to--oppose any bill or package of bills that result in a net increase in taxes.
Yet some have questioned our motive and wisdom of opposing a plan supported by many Republican legislators. We don't often get into the foray of legislative battles at this level. When we do, we do so because we believe our involvement can make a difference in furthering our fundamental principles.
Thus, in recent years, we've fought hard to defeat attempts to undermine the Electoral college, expand Obamacare and raise taxes. We've also been on the offensive by pushing for education reform, school choice, strengthening our 2nd amendment rights, protecting life and repealing the state income tax. We've fought for principles, not politicians. We will continue to do so, even when some of our close friends may be on the other side of the issue. Our involvement in the budget battle was not about picking one side or the other. It was quite simple. We will oppose tax increases in whatever form they may rear their ugly head.
As the state party, we believe that being a Republican is more than a label and should not be relegated to a mere social club. Voters should be confident that when they elect a Republican to office, that person will stand for the fundamental principles of the party platform. It is our responsibility to remind our elected officials of this. We cannot stand idly by when Republican officials are looking to veer from the principles that define us as a party.
The Republican Party and our candidates have the most success when we stay true to these conservative principles. And we will never have Republican unity while some Republicans are increasing taxes, regardless of how fancy they dress it up.