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|Stand firm on Stelly|
That wretched tax-and-spend mentality which tends to fester among some government employees, liberal politicians, some so-called good government watchdog groups and too many higher education officials reared its ugly head in fine fashion once again.
Let us recall that some officials associated with the University of Louisiana System opined not long ago that tax cuts approved by the Legislature last year would force higher education to swallow some $200 million-$300 million in budget cuts for the 2009-2010 fiscal year. They emphatically said that would be the case once the dust clears following the regular legislative session, which must adjourn by the end of June.
At the heart of the flap over tax cuts state lawmakers green lighted in 2008 is a roll back in the income tax hikes the Legislature agreed to earlier in the decade. That would be the so-called Stelly Tax, which the voters approved in a constitutional amendment.
Stelly raised personal income tax rates in Louisiana. It was a windfall for government, which is understandable since Stelly forced middle class and upper-middle class wage earners to pay more taxes.
It is estimated that rolling back Stelly will cost the state treasury some $300 million-$400 million once those tax cuts take effect. That will occur in the 2009-2010 fiscal year, which begins July 1.
Last week, what once was a highly respected good government watchdog group spoke out about Stelly. The group, Public Affairs Research Council of Louisiana, issued an edict that said the Legislature should delay implementing the Stelly Tax cuts.
Since the state is staring at a $1.3-billion revenue shortfall heading into the 2009-2010 fiscal year, state lawmakers should take steps to find more revenue for state government. That's what PAR said in so many words.
Holding off on implementing the Stelly cuts would be a step in the right direction, according to PAR. Besides, PAR said, the people have not seen, or yielded, any benefits from the Stelly Tax cuts since the cuts will not take effect until after July 1, or in the new fiscal year.
To surmise, PAR encouraged the Legislature to go back on its word.
Not to be outdone in the mad rush to find more money to feed that beast we call government, Lt. Gov. Mitch Landrieu enlightened us with his opinion on the issue in a speech he delivered Monday at a Press Club luncheon in Baton Rouge.
Landrieu, a Democrat from New Orleans, whined about the Stelly Tax cuts, too. He said the Legislature should put the brakes on the cuts, or, like PAR advocated, go back on its word.
Landrieu, though, was accurate in one observation he offered at the Press Club. He said the Legislature spent too much money during its regular session in 2008.
We could not agree more.
Yet, there exists a common denominator in reviewing the opinions that some higher education officials, PAR and Landrieu bellowed as of late. They all favor more government spending at the expense of the people.
While we appreciate and respect people and organizations that advocate increased spending to fuel more government, we simply disagree with them.
Instead, we invite PAR and Landrieu to join the higher education community in working with Gov. Bobby Jindal and the Legislature to locate cuts in state spending to reduce the amount of money government spends in general and to spare cuts higher education believes it will endure in the 2009-2010 fiscal year.
The money is there. State Sen. Mike Walsworth, a member of the Senate Finance Committee, acknowledged it in an interview with The Ouachita Citizen.
If Walsworth knows it, we suspect PAR, Landrieu, the higher education community and every member of the Legislature know it, too.
They need to get busy and find it.
And they need to keep their hands off the income tax cuts the Legislature approved for the people, though the people have yet to see a penny of it.
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