John Bel Edwards’ Gas Tax Hike Gets A Committee Hearing Tomorrow…

…and from everything we hear it’s a cliffhanger whether the bill will survive that hearing. There was talk the gas tax bill might escapethe House Ways And Means Committee by way of a motion to send it to the floor without a vote, but we’ve talked to at least one member of that committee who has pledged to object to such a motion and force the committee to vote on the bill.

And there is not a majority in favor of the gas tax bill in the House Ways And Means Committee as of this afternoon. Or maybe there is.

There are 19 members of the House Ways And Means Committee – 12 Republicans and seven Democrats. HB 632 by Rep. Steve Carter, which is the gas tax bill, has eight eight or nine votes, depending on whose whip count you’re looking at, with a couple of the committee members on the fence. If the bill does manage to make the House floor it needs a two-thirds vote; that’s going to be pretty close to impossible to get seeing as though there are a goodly number of Democrats who aren’t for it. Those Democrats are saying their constituents, many if not most of whom are poor and particularly broke after the sales tax hike Edwards dragged through the legislature last year, can’t afford a 17 cent increase in the state’s gas tax.

The gas tax bill is a $539 million tax increase. It’s a colossal tax increase. For a Republican legislature to pass that increase on a two-thirds vote when lots of Democrats says they’re against it after spending the whole session loudly decrying any new taxes, amid an even louder public disapproval of the tax – the Truth In Politics survey last month found 75 percent disapproval of the gas tax hike, 63 percent of it strong disapproval, against a paltry 22 percent approval – would be the longest of long shots.

Then, last week, Bernie Pinsonat of Southern Media and Opinion Research released his own poll which showed the gas tax hike polling little better – getting thrashed by a 29-67 margin in that survey.

How you get a two-thirds House vote for a bill two thirds of the public in multiple polls disapproves of is beyond us.

Still, hope springs eternal, and House Speaker Taylor Barras has begun cheerleading it – largely because Barras thinks that $539 million will actually result in the finishing of the I-49 South project through his district in New Iberia.

We’ve already discussed a few times, most recently this weekend in our examination of the dubious John James Audubon Bridge connecting St. Francisville (sort of) with New Roads (sort of), how Louisiana’s Department of Transportation and Development (DOTD) is a fairly unreliable producer of road improvements. What’s at work with this gas tax bill amounts essentially to blind faith that this time, past failures on infrastructure aren’t a good indicator of future results. As you can see from the Truth In Politics poll, the voters don’t share that faith from Carter and Barras.

Nor does Americans For Prosperity’s Louisiana chapter. Its director John Kay had a scathing denunciation of the gas tax bill to the Gannett Louisiana papers this morning…

“Committee members know raising the gas tax will hurt Louisiana families who are already struggling to get by in our state’s sluggish economy,” said John Kay, Americans for Prosperity’s state director. “In the April tax elections, Louisianans spoke loudly and clearly about their position on higher taxes, offering a resounding ’no’ to new taxes and tax renewals in many regions across this state.”

Here’s who’s on the House Ways And Means Committee, which will either send this to the floor or just kill it in tomorrow’s meeting…

Abramson, Neil C. Chairman Dist.  98 D
Morris, James “Jim” Vice Chair Dist.  1 R
Bouie, Joseph Member Dist.  97 D
Broadwater, Chris Member Dist.  86 R
Davis, Paula Member Dist.  69 R
DeVillier, Phillip Member Dist.  41 R
Dwight, Stephen Member Dist.  35 R
Harris, Jimmy Member Dist.  99 D
Horton, Dodie Member Dist.  9 R
Hunter, Marcus L. Member Dist.  17 D
Huval, Mike Member Dist.  46 R
Ivey, Barry Member Dist.  65 R
James, Edward C. “Ted” Member Dist.  101 D
Johnson, Robert A. Member Dist.  28 D
Morris, John C. “Jay” Member Dist.  14 R
Schexnayder, Clay Member Dist.  81 R
Seabaugh, Alan Member Dist.  5 R
Stokes, Julie Member Dist.  79 R
Thibaut, Major Member Dist.  18 D
Barras, Taylor F. Ex Officio Dist.  48 R
Leger, Walt III Ex Officio Dist.  91 D
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