Did House Republicans really grovel to Norquist in Jindal budget letter?
Written by  // Wednesday, 10 June 2015 12:38 //

jindal-angryby Tom Aswell, Publisher of Louisiana Voice
Twenty-four hours of reflection and some well-chosen observations from retired State Budget Director Stephen Winham have us now considering the possibility that the letter from those 11 Republican Louisiana House members seeking advice on the controversial SAVE bill may not have been so much a capitulation to Grover Norquist as it was a set up that left Bobby Jindal looking like the fool he is on the eve of his formal entry into the GOP presidential sweepstakes.


And that classic no-response response by Norquist only adds to the speculation that the whole thing was a devilishly clever trap designed to ensnare Jindal in his own web of deceit and rigid demagoguery.

If that indeed was the purpose of the letter, we at LouisianaVoice have more than a little egg on our faces and an apology to the 11 legislators on our lips because, quite frankly (and there is no spin we can put on this) we were taken in as were most of us who read the letter for the first time.

Unlike traditional media, we do not bury our “clarifications” in some obscure part of our publication with a two- or three-sentence acknowledgement of the error; we put it out there for all to see.

We’re still not certain that the letter was written with the intent of putting Jindal in a box from which there was no graceful exit as opposed to the first blush appearance of pathetic groveling, but it’s sure beginning to look that way. And if that is what it was, we can only add, Touché.

The only thing that gives us pause is the fact that four members of the Ways and Means Committee who signed the letter—Cameron Henry of Metairie, Kirk Talbot of River Ridge, Joe Harrison of Gray, and John Schroder of Covington—also signed Norquist’s “no tax” pledge.

Moreover, five of the 11 (Brett Geymann of Lake Charles, Harrison, Henry, Schroder and Talbot are either current or former members of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), the national non-profit organization funded by some of America’s largest corporations, including Wal-Mart, major oil, pharmaceutical, and insurance companies and Koch Industries.

But perhaps the biggest indication that the letter was an elaborate ruse, and one we did not initially consider, is simply this: Why would the committee release the letter—and Norquist’s response—to the media unless it was just that: a scheme to back Jindal into a corner? It would be too convenient to say the letter was simply leaked; it’s more likely now, considering the meek response by Norquist, that it was spoon-fed to the media with the express purpose of embarrassing Jindal.

“I have read and re-read the letter,” said Winham in an email to LouisianaVoice, “and I still see it as a direct hit on Norquist and Jindal and that it serves as an official record of opposition to SAVE and to Grover Norquist and to Bobby Jindal.

“I also agree that, in addition to its (SAVE’s) utter stupidity, it would establish a horrible precedent that (says) pure gimmicks suffice to do anything with taxes,” he said. “I am not anti-tax and (I) believe anybody ought to have sense enough to know which services we need and that they have to be paid for. I am not for using totally idiotic loopholes as a means to pass taxes and then pretend you didn’t.”

Winham said that had he been a legislator, “I would have signed that sucker” with the view of telling Grover where he could stick it and with the admonition to “leave us alone.”

Winham is not alone in concocting his theory, not by a long shot. Sharing his views were superb Baton Rouge Advocate political columnist Stephanie Grace who has recently been taking Jindal to task on his budget proposals and his silly presidential run.

In her Tuesday column, she said the letter makes a lot of sense on a number of levels—mostly because it puts the ball squarely in Norquist’s and Jindal’s corner.


Another is a blogger known only as Skydancer. In her most recent post, she pours the metaphorical gasoline on the fire that is quickly bringing to a boil the hot water that Jindal finds himself in only days before his (yawn) announcement that he is a candidate for the Republican presidential nomination.

Skydancer notes that Rep. Joel Robideaux (R-Lafayette), chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, said in the letter that the bill, if enacted, “would successfully and irreparably establish the precedent that future legislatures and governors can raise taxes on a nearly unlimited basis and then claim revenue neutrality solely based on the creation of a purely fictional, procedural phantom paper tax credit.” http://skydancingblog.com/2015/06/08/monday-reads-take-our-governor-please/

But the most important endorsement of Winham’s theory comes from none other than Norquist himself. The leader of Americans for Tax Reform (ATR), Norquist initiated the infamous “no tax” pledge that a couple of dozen Louisiana lawmakers signed off on, including those four Ways and Means Committee members.

So, what was the response to the letter by Norquist? He punted. “ATR is agnostic as to whether a credit or deduction is good policy. We merely call balls and strikes regarding whether a change in tax law results in a net tax increase,” he wrote back. “ATR does not support or oppose the SAVE Act. While the SAVE Act does include a credit that can be used to offset other tax increases, there are other ways to achieve revenue neutrality, such as by repealing the corporate franchise tax and/or cutting the state income tax. If you don’t like the SAVE Act, why not find other offsetting tax cuts that are more to your liking?” he added.

Obviously, that response is significant.

First, it gives the Ways and Means Committee all the ammunition it needs to kill the SAVE bill and for the Legislature to move forward in the final week of the 2015 session in passing a budget that will almost certainly be vetoed by Jindal.

Second, it sets up a confrontation that could result in just the third override of a governor’s veto in Louisiana history.

That will look great on Jindal’s resumé when he makes his official announcement in New Orleans on June 24.


“If we are honest with ourselves, we can all agree that too many of those stereotypes rang true. In our past, too many of our politicians looked out for themselves. Too many arms of state and local government did not get results. And the world took note. Those stereotypes cost us credibility. They cost us investment. They cost us jobs.”—Governor Bobby Jindal, January 2008, Inauguration address

 I don't know about you.  But, being honest with myself, I feel hit by a Grover Norquist and Bobby Jindal tax-scheme fraud.  Being further honest, I feel threatened by what I call a Jindal veto-extortion.  


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