Vitter Releases First Installment Of Campaign Policy Platform

Whether in an effort to one-up Jay Dardenne’s campaign announcement or in a bit of coincidence, David Vitter put out a release today launching some of the policy justifications for his gubernatorial campaign.

He’s calling his campaign plan “Together, Louisiana Strong,” which is a little bit of a stepping-on-of-toes of the grassroots conservative group Louisiana Strong (but then again there seems to be a finite number of good names for Louisiana political movements and plans, so sooner or later a duplicate is inevitable), not to mention the grassroots left-wing group Together Louisiana (who will likely be a lot more pissed off about this than Louisiana Strong will) and the first bits of policy went out with the announcement.

There’s a video, which is basic campaign fodder…

How detailed the blueprint is will probably be seen as a matter for questioning. So far what Vitter has issued sounds reasonable, but doesn’t have a whole lot of detail.

For example, the campaign put out a document containing some plans for the state budget and spending reform, which promises an immediate special session to work on restructuring the budget. Among the items Vitter is pushing along those lines are…

– Undedicating most of the dedicated spending in the budget, which isn’t all that different from the “funds sweeps” the Jindal administration annually does to fill the general fund with tax dollars collected but not needed for the dedicated items.

– “Re-examining” all the tax credits and deductions allowed in the state tax code, something which is quite likely to get a good going-over in the session beginning in a week. There has been a good deal of talk about Vitter as a behind-the-scenes player in driving some of the preliminary discussions of tax reform in this session, though what that might mean is if nothing major passes Vitter is the prime beneficiary of the failure and it would thus be inevitable for somebody to accuse him of spiking those reforms until next year when he could control them from the 4th floor of the State Capitol.

– Targeted tax rate cuts to spur economic growth; an obvious example of which would be to dump or greatly reduce the state’s corporate income tax which only brings in some $200 million per year and serves as the basis for billions of dollars in tax credits.

– Reworking the state’s Transportation Trust Fund, which currently funds lots of things other than roads and bridges thanks to lots of dedications and protections in current law. It sounds as though Vitter might be about to advocate a smaller amount of the gas tax going to the TTF but a much more focused mission for it so that on net, more gas tax money pours asphalt even though the TTF might get less funding.

All are ideas everybody can probably get behind, but Vitter isn’t going into details that might produce objections.

A bit more, which again escapes specificity but in theory sounds laudatory…

– Streamlining the state sales tax system, likely with a uniform collection apparatus that gives business a single clearinghouse with whom to deal rather than 64 parishes plus the state government. That’s an idea that was appended to the Jindal plan to repeal the state income tax of a couple of years ago and died in the resulting fire; there are parishes which really like doing their own thing on sales tax and parish officials who are huge fans of getting to collect local sales taxes (and you can imagine who those are, which makes an outstanding argument for having the state Department of Revenue do the job and then write the checks to the parishes), so to pass this would likely entail a significant fight in the legislature.

– Totally repealing the state inventory tax and all the credits associated with it, which Vitter came out for doing last week. He also said then that he’s for finding some revenue stream for parish governments to offset the loss of ad valorem taxes on movable property, though we haven’t seen any specifics on that so far.

– Requiring a two-thirds vote on all new spending dedications and/or tax credits, and sunsetting all tax credits after some period of years so that they’ve got to pass muster in a legislative review to establish some sense of permanence.

– Killing all state consulting contracts for things state employees can do; Vitter draws from a familiar thrust of state treasurer John Kennedy with this one though perhaps improves on Kennedy’s demand that all the state’s consultants should take a 10 percent haircut across the board. Instead, Vitter says sending that work back to state agencies should be the goal. There is a pitfall in this, though, because while the state agencies will happily do the work they’ll demand increased appropriations to pay for it. Vitter might want to sharpen this pitch by saying every state consulting contract needs to pass muster not only for whether state workers can perform the function but whether the function is proper for (1) government to perform at all, or (2) the state government to do it rather than local governments.

– Tossing a lot of the projects on the capital outlay list in an effort to clear the multi-billion dollar backlog of state projects and therefore focusing more completely on the big highway projects languishing without progress on the list. That the Jindal administration never cut through the petty politics to get this done when Jindal had an approval rating in the 60’s and 70’s is inexplicable; it’s obvious that with gubernatorial leadership I-49 could have been completed by now or at least well on its way, and a loop around Baton Rouge could have been on its way to the same happy fate.

There is more in Vitter’s release, which you can read below. What’s apparent, though, is the style – Vitter has made it a point to visit with a large number of the state’s stakeholders on many of these issues in an effort to find opportunities where restructuring of government is possible, and the things he’s suggesting are items which have found significant support in lots of quarters. With most, though probably not all, of what he’s suggesting there is an impetus toward shrinking government and sweeping aside the current structures which were built for a different time and different governmental vision and reformed in a piecemeal and haphazard fashion by ineffective governors attempting to depart from the Longite socialist model.

Vitter is spooling his plan out in bite-sized morsels a little at a time in order to get people to subscribe to his campaign e-mail list to receive future installments. But this is the first bite.

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