Jindal’s bizarro fiscal philosophy displayed in veto
The need for proof that Gov. Bobby Jindal jigs to the most extreme time signature of the his party’s anti-tax ensemble long ago ended, at least as the governor would have it. But to remind us great unwashed that it’s all a dog and pony show designed to buttress his national ambitions, Jindal recently displayed a dollop of fiscal sanity in vetoing on Friday Senate Bill 21, which would have exempted bottled water — carbonated water, flavored water, mineral water, vitamin water and plain, old water water, which is commonly tapped from the municipal water supplies of other cities — from the state sales and use tax.
In his veto message of the bill by state Sen. Neil Riser, R-Columbia, Jindal notes that the “exemption would result in a state revenue loss of $8.3 million in the upcoming fiscal year, and a total state revenue loss of $52.7 million over the next five years. Water delivered to the home through pipes is already exempt from sales tax. I am concerned this could cause our budget for the upcoming year to be out of balance.”
Bravo, governor. With apologies to our friends in Broussard’s Shenandoah Estates, where “crap from the tap” is a daily affair, Riser’s legislation was ill-conceived, not just from a state revenue perspective: Bottled water is one of the most environmentally destructive products in the marketplace. Exempting it from the state sales and use tax — essentially encouraging its consumption and the attendant spike in virtually indestructible plastic bottles going into landfills, not to mention (but I will) the increased rise in greenhouse gas emissions from transporting a commodity that in most communities is nearly free and proven safe from the tap — is a bad idea that deserved Jindal’s veto.
But square the governor’s sensible, post-session veto of Riser’s bill with his in-session veto of House Bill 591 by Rep. Harold Ritchie, D-Bogalusa. HB 591 reauthorized a 4-cent state cigarette tax, and Jindal made much ado about a tax renewal being, in his opinion, a tax hike. Ritchie pulled a brilliant parliamentary move after the House chickened out of overriding Jindal’s veto by attaching it to an unrelated senate bill, but Jindal’s grandstanding was widely derided among both parties and in newspaper editorial pages, although it undoubtedly endeared him to the no-nothing element of his GOP base.
That 4-cent cigarette tax generates $12 million annually — almost 50 percent more than the bottled water tax the governor elected to maintain with his veto pen. What’s more, the cigarette tax was earmarked for health care. As the governor emphasizes in his veto message for SB 21, “It is important that we protect scarce resources for priorities like health care and higher education.”
Jindal’s taxation schizophrenia came to our attention via dark horse gubernatorial candidate Tara Hollis, a north Louisiana Democrat, who called it “messed up,” among other things, in a press release issued Sunday.
Considering the two vetoes together, it’s hard to make a case that our governor is a model of consistency: By vetoing Ritchie’s bill, had he been successful, the governor would have lowered the price of a pack of cigarettes. By vetoing Riser’s bill, the governor maintains the tax on bottled water. Put another way, on the one hand he used his veto to lower a tax; on the other he used his veto to prevent the lowering of a tax.
Could it be that vetoing Ritchie’s bill during the session got a lot of press and helped burnish Jindal’s anti-tax bona fides, while vetoing Riser’s bill post-session — one among 14 vetoes the governor issued on Thursday and Friday of last week — flew beneath the radar? Or is it simply safe to assume in terms of the Louisiana governor's office the cigarette lobby is bigger than the bottled water lobby?
MAY 24 Blogger Robert Mann posts this entry about the Baton Rouge Chamber's recent report on Louisiana's higher education system. It's critical to economic development, and yet our system is facing a "funding crisis" with no way to resolve it, the report says. The Chamber says control of tuition and fees must be returned to the higher ed governing boards.
MAY 24 Here's a NBC33 story about Tyrann Mathieu. He has signed with the Arizona Cardinals, inking a $3 million, four-year deal. He gets a signing bonus of $265K, but gets another, larger bonus if he doesn't get cut from the team for doing drugs. The deal reportedly includes mandatory tests and meetings for the player.
MAY 24 Jarvis DeBerry posts here about the redonkulus rhetoric that would have us believe NOLA is a safe city with a murder problem. Maybe the city's crime stats don't compare with its murder stats because you can't manipulate a murder, he says: a dead body's a dead body. It just doesn't make sense, he says, and his readers agree: a poll asks if they believe the city is safe, and more than 90 percent say no.
MAY 24 Jindal administration officials announced Thursday that the privatization of public health care is going to cost a lot more than they budgeted for, the Advocate reports here. "I'm so surprised," said no one. Anywhere. The cost they're projecting now is more than $1 billion - a lot more than the $626 million budgeted for it. And, it's more than it cost the state to operate those hospitals. So why are we doing this again?
MAY 24 Blogger CB Forgotston ridicules the recent PR campaign by the state GOP in the wake of a legislative auditor's request to both major parties. The GOP (apparently unaware that the Dems got the same request) started yammering about being targeted because it had "killed" a tax increase. CB finds that laughable, but it's also pretty funny that the GOP was comparing this episode to the IRS scandal (Because the President has so much to do with our state auditor. Right?).
MAY 24 Politico details some recent fund-raising efforts by Sen. David Vitter, which have raised the question of his future political plans. This time, it is a $5,000 per head "bayou weekend" that includes "Cajun cooking" and an all-caps "alligator hunt," the story reports. Funds raised go to a super PAC that can spend money to support Vitter in federal or state races, the story points out.
MAY 24 The pink building on Royal in the quarter was sold at a sheriff's sale Thursday, this Picayune story reports. An injunction that would have halted the sale wasn't enforced because the family failed to post a $150,000 bond, the story reports. So the owner of the mortgages on the building bought it, for nearly $7 million. Now the feuding family will have to negotiate with that company to get a lease on the building that has housed their business for close to 60 years.
MAY 23 This post in Louisiana Voice tells us about a bill by a Winnsboro lege that would require all public high school students to take at least one Course Choice online class in order to graduate. (What?) Blogger Tom Aswell says it's a monument to "waste and corruption," especially in light of the problems he's exposed with the program in recent weeks. Idaho had a similar program, but voters removed it by a 2-1 margin, Aswell says.
There will soon be a whole lot of shakin’ going on at Benny’s Sportshack Supplement Depot, a new concept by Opelousas native Benny Nele. Located at 2002 Johnston St., the supplement shop, smoothie bar and café, featuring hot off the press paninis and wraps, plans to open in late May.
Philip deMahy Sr., a once respected New Iberia ad exec, was sentenced May 2 to spend the next two years (he faced up to 100 years) in a state penitentiary after state and federal investigators found dozens of images depicting children engaged in lewd sexual acts on his personal computer.