For all the whining and griping he’s done, Gov. John Bel Edwards is getting grudging approval from the House for his tax increases. Slowly, they’re passing some of them.
The alcohol tax that he screamed about on Friday and was initially rejected did manage to cross the 70-vote threshold, getting 76 votes for a $4.4 million hike that represented a simplification of alcohol taxes in the state (trading tax simplification for additional revenue is generally something there can be support for in the House).
The proposed alcohol taxes would raise prices only modestly. Taxes on liquor, sparkling wine and wine with a lower alcohol content would go up less than a cent per fluid once. Some wine with higher alcohol contents would go up between one or two cents per fluid once. Beer taxes would go up less than a penny per bottle.
The new taxes would produce $4.4 million before June 30 to modestly help close Louisiana’s $900 deficit in the current budget. They would generate $19 million for the next budget cycle, where Louisiana is facing a $2 billion shortfall.
House Bill 27 doesn’t raise alcohol taxes nearly as high as the governor had originally proposed. The legislation was amended to have much lower rates on all types of alcohol, in order to get enough House members on board to pass it.
The original alcohol tax proposed by Edwards would have generated $9 million for the current budget deficit and $27 million to fix next year’s problem.
No word since Friday night on the dispensation of the idea to front-load Edwards’ sales tax increase. That will likely percolate a bit this morning if it’s actually going to happen.
The battle over the future of confederate monuments in New Orleans may not be over yet.
State Senator Beth Mizell, R-Franklinton, has filed a bill for the upcoming legislative session that would restrict the removal of war memorials through the creation of a “Louisiana Heritage Protection Commission.”
The statewide commission would need to grant waivers before local jurisdictions could remove, rename or otherwise alter a public memorial to a “historic conflict, historic entity, historic event, historic figure or historic organization.”
Currently, the City of New Orleans is accepting contract proposals to take down the statues of Robert E. Lee, P.G.T. Beauregard and Jefferson Davis, as well as the monument to the Battle of Liberty Place.
It’s work that the Landrieu administration hoped would be completed by this summer.
Mizell’s bill would cover all of the monuments currently slated for removal in the city.
The bill, which will be debated in the regular session that begins later this month, might well be too late, and it might fall to Attorney General Jeff Landry to intervene in the monuments case to keep it from becoming moot. That said, it’s a good bet Mizell’s bill would pass both houses if she can get it out of committee – and then it would land on Edwards’ desk where he absolutely does not want it to be. It would create a major dilemma for him; if he signs the bill he’ll be at odds with Mitch Landrieu and potentially split the state Democrat party just in time for a Foster Campbell-Caroline Fayard internecine battle in the Senate race (which as we noted over the weekend could well have the effect of putting two Republicans in the runoff this fall).
If he vetoes the bill he’s finished as a viable Louisiana governor, because there is no way he’ll be forgiven by folks in suburban and rural areas of the state (where he did quite well last fall) for allowing those monuments to come down. Edwards said during the campaign that he thinks such issues should be decided locally, and for some reason he wasn’t hit on that position during the campaign.
The problem Edwards has is that if Lee Circle is turned into something else and the Jefferson Davis and PGT Beauregard statues are taken down, it won’t be the end of the monument-removal craze. Jackson Square is going to be the next target of the cultural Marxist mob, and all the reasons given for why Robert E. Lee is unacceptable are even more in play there. And there are other cities in the state with the same kinds of clowns at work as in New Orleans, complete with pandering politicians to do their bidding, all of whom are Democrats. Meaning that if Edwards were to veto that bill and thus refuse to put a stop to the monument-removal efforts they will keep coming back in the news over and over again with his face on them for having vetoed Mizell’s bill.
The best Edwards could hope for is that the current round of monuments be pulled down before he signs the bill, and then he can quietly sign it and have the issue go away. Landry’s actions might turn out to be decisive in whether he can be so lucky.