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Story Archives: Timing means everything
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|Timing means everything|
There was something noticeably absent from a news release issued by the governor's press office last week.
Declaring which pieces of legislation under consideration in the regular legislative session that Gov. Bobby endorsed, there was no mention of Sen. Buddy Shaw's offering to roll back state income tax rates to levels prior to the passage of the so-called "Stelly Plan."
Jindal's press office either made a mistake in omitting the Shaw bill from the laundry list of bills Jindal supports, or it was a deliberate effort to signal to the Legislature and the media that the governor isn't too hip on cutting income taxes at this time.
Take your pick.
As every Tom, Dick and Harry from Lake Providence to Lake Charles knows, the so-called "Stelly Plan" was named in honor of its creator, former Rep. Vic Stelly of Lake Charles. Beginning in 2003, "Stelly" raised personal income tax rates for literally every Louisianian from all walks of life.
Several weeks ago, Jindal joined his hand-picked legislative leaders in announcing a compromise had been reached to advance Shaw's bill, which evolved from a simple effort to cut income taxes for middle-class wage earners into a measure to eliminate state income taxes in Louisiana altogether. That income tax cut train left the station, so to speak, before Shaw knew it, while Jindal never saw it coming.
Yet, a compromise was reached among Jindal and a host of lawmakers, which called for cuts in all income tax rates to levels prior to "Stelly." Since the staging of a media-driven news conference a few weeks back in which Jindal said he would support a compromise concerning the Shaw bill, we haven't heard a peep from the Jindal administration on the income tax front. That speaks volumes.
We have heard from the Legislature, though, where lawmakers appear headed toward instituting cuts in income taxes beginning in 2009, meaning Louisiana's taxpayers could pay through the nose in state income taxes for another year.
We've heard as well from the Public Affairs Research Council of Louisiana, commonly known as PAR.
Led by the widely respected Jim Brandt, PAR opined that cutting state income taxes would be a bad thing. PAR said the state can't afford it since the state faces a mountain of expenditures it must meet in the coming years if we expect state government to continue footing the bill for the same level of services we are afforded today.
Meanwhile, the Legislature is still toying with the idea of raising its pay from the current rate of $16,800 per year for each lawmaker to as high as $75,000 a year, or somewhere in between. The pay raises for lawmakers could become affective July 1 of this year, not July 1, 2009.
While it's ludicrous to expect legislators to make do with a $16,800 annual salary plus per diems in light of the amount of time they devote to legislative affairs, the Legislature would be foolish to "grandfather" in a cut in state income taxes while raising its compensation immediately.
However, the Legislature has a track record of acting foolishly.
Historically, that is.
It would be within reason, though, to assume few lawmakers expected the electorate to react as negatively as it did to the spike in state income taxes that the so-called "Stelly Plan" brought about.
Some of them learned the hard way, or at the ballot box in last fall's elections.
If the Legislature stiffs the taxpayers while granting itself an immediate pay hike, something tells us the electorate will remember it in three years when lawmakers face the voters again.
|Frank Morris Murder Series|