And as has been the case for the past eight years, legislators bowed to the whims of the state’s presidential hopeful, better known as Gov. Bobby Jindal.
.To be sure, the Legislature had a chance at showing some independence with the lame-duck governor, but, in the end, they wimped out.
At issue was the SAVE Act, which opponents called a sham and an accounting trick that would allow Jindal to keep his no-tax increase pledge and please the infamous Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform.
It was thought that the House would balk at the proposal after it had passed the Senate. But in the final hours, House members, under a veto threat from the governor, capitulated.
The SAVE Act was described by Jeremy Alford of LaPolitics.com: “It creates an assessment that would be levied against every single college student in Louisiana except that the students would never actually pay the assessment.”
The jury is still out on the performance of the Legislature. Some analysts contend that the budget contains more than $900 million in tax increases on everyone from businesses to smokers.
The Louisiana Association of Business and Industry (LABI) said on its website that “lawmakers approved numerous bills that will raise taxes in Louisiana by more than $2.3 billion over the next five years.”
The tax increases, with the exception of the cigarette tax increase of 50 cents per pack, will sunset after three years.
While higher education and healthcare did not suffer drastic cuts, businesses and even conservatives do not appear to be happy with the final budget.
LABI president Stephen Waguespack said that estimates put the price tag on increased taxes at $700 million in addition to subsidies that will decrease.
In addition to the tax hike for smokers, the film industry is concerned about a cap of $180 million on its tax credits, and businesses are assessing the impact of cuts from 20 to 28% on a variety of tax breaks and subsidies they receive.
It remains to be seen how voters will view the job performance of legislators All of them, if not term-limited, are up for re-election on October 24.
Jindal did take a couple of lumps
It wasn’t all a bed of roses for Gov. Jindal. He was handed a couple of defeats by state legislators.
Not much was seen of Jindal during the session, but he did push for the elimination of Common Core, as well as religious freedom legislation.
The Legislature did its own thing on Commin Core, putting together compromise on the academic standards.
The only bill Jindal mentioned in his opening remarks to legislators was the religious freedom bill, which was introduced by Republican state Rep. Mike Johnson of Bossier City.
The bill did not make it out of committee, being defeated by a 10-2 vote. Even so, Jindal then tried to put the meaning of the bill into law by issuing an executive order, which most observers feel will have little impact.
In the end, however, Jindal said he was pleased with the budget and would sign it. Obviously, the only thing he cared about was being able to say he did not raise taxes and balanced the budget as he campaigns for president. In reality, he did raise taxes.
Just ask car buyers who will see the vehicle title tax increase from $15.50 to $68.50 starting July 1 and smokers who will now pay an 86-cent state tax on a pack of cigarettes and college students who will likely see an increase in costs to attend a higher education institution.
The bottom line: The next governor and the next Legislature will have a mess to deal with.
On the bright side
There were a few bright spots in an otherwise lackluster performance by the Louisiana Legislature now that Gov. Bobby Jindal is a lame-duck and headed to a presidential bid.
Legislators finally voted to reduce the criminal penalties for marijuana possession, which was long overdue, especially for first offenders caught with a small amount of the substance.
And it voted to allow access to medical marijuana for the ill, another action which was much-needed.
In an interesting development, there was a stroke of legislative independence, albeit about eight years too late. Henceforth, senators will elect their president and pro tempore, the second most powerful position, by secret ballot.
Senators believe such a move will limit the governor’s influence in deciding who will lead that legislative body and who will occupy committee chairmanships. Hope springs eternal and the proof will be in the pudding, as they say.
Whether it’s possible to eliminate the governor’s choice for Senate president remains to be seen. There are still many ways the governor can get his way and exercise his power, such as through the line-item veto and approval of construction projects. But perhaps it’s a start toward more legislative independence.
Legislators in both houses passed legislation which will curtail the broad exemptions granted to the governor’s office on the availability of office records, making more of them public.
There’s no indication Jindal will sign the bill, but the legislation does not affect him and he may just sign it to make life a little more difficult for his successor.
In what has to be considered a landmark vote, both houses passed a resolution that would allow the next governor to expand Medicaid. Since it’s a resolution, it does not need the governor’s signature.
It was a definite breakthrough since Jindal and Republican legislators have vehemently opposed the expansion, which many other states have approved.
‘The End’ of Hollywood South?
Hollywood South may be gone with the wind thanks to legislation passed at the last minute of the recently concluded legislative session.
The legislation, spearheaded by state Rep. Joel Robideaux, R-Lafayette, puts a $180 million annual cap on film credits. He and proponents said the measure is designed to encourage more local film production investment in the state.
Robideaux said he’d rather have 100 Louisiana filmmakers each make a $10 million movie than to have one filmmaker from California come to the state, shoot a $100 million movie, then fly back to California.
Opponents, led by state Sen. J.P. Morrell, D-New Orleans, said the legislation absolutely kills the film tax credit program and will make Louisiana less competitive with other states that are wooing the film industry.
They contend that the $180 million cap is so broad, it will create uncertainty among film producers that they’ll never be able to collect on the promised credits.
Lost in the discussion are more than 14,000 jobs dependent upon the film industry – everything from costume designers and costume shops to caterers to truck drivers, to mention a few.
It has been estimated that small businesses represent more than 50% of the state’s $1 billion film industry.
The film industry has given Shreveport and the surrounding area an economic boost. A total of 143 movies and television series have been shot in the area between 2005 and 2014.
Members of the film industry are urging Gov. Jindal to veto the bill. There has been no word from the governor’s office on where he stands on the bill.
If he does not veto it, and it is unlikely that he will, there is already talk that a lawsuit could be on the horizon.
Whatcha gonna do now, Bobby?
No, Bobby Jindal won’t be going to Disney World, but he will be on the road, as he has been for years, trying to drum up support for a GOP presidential bid.
Here’s what he is saying on his website: “For some time now, my wife Supriya and I have been thinking and praying about whether to run for the Presidency of our great nation. I’m pleased to say that we will announce our final decision on June 24th in New Orleans.”
Will he run? Most political observers think so...or else he would not be making such a big deal about his announcement. (Actually, the announcement will be in Metairie, not New Orleans.)
Will he be a viable candidate? Most political observers do not think so. In the latest Fox News poll, he came in last with one percent of the vote among the 15 candidates surveyed.
A quick look at the poll: Jeb Bush 12%, Scott Walker 12%, Ben Carson 11%, Rand Paul 9%, Ted Cruz 8%, Marco Rubio 7%, Mike Huckabee 6%, Chris Christie 5%, Donald Trump 4%, Rick Perry 4%, John Kasich 2%, Rick Santorum 2%, Carly Florina 2%, Lindsey Graham 2%, Bobby Jindal 1%.
Jindal’s bragging about all he has done for Louisiana is not resonating with voters outside the state. They can read and see where Louisiana is first in everything bad and last in everything good.
Nor is it resonating with voters inside the state. His job approval rating is at best 30%. What has to be most embarrassing to Jindal is that President Barack Obama has a higher approval rating in his home state
Some analysts believe Jindal has a Plan B. He runs for president, which keeps his name in the mix with prominent Republicans.
If he eventually drops out and endorses the right candidate, he can hope to be tapped for vice president, or at the very least, a cabinet position...if the GOP wins.
(Photo: Tim Barfield, Secretary of Revenues, State of Louisiana)
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Tuesday, 16 June 2015 12:48
Is the Louisiana budget really balanced now that the Louisiana’s legislative session is history? If not, what will the state do to balance the budget? Did the revenue measures have the required vote to pass or did they need two-thirds vote? Since the budget next year appears to be just as bad as this year’s, will we see more taxes? Are Republican officials in a position to raise more revenues through taxes and fees?