Say, John Bel…Where’s Your Tax Plan?

We were supposed to see a big reveal today of our governor’s well-supported and totally legitimate tax reform proposals. Edwards was supposed to unveil them at the Baton Rouge Press Club.

And that isn’t going to happen. Now it’s Wednesday. At the earliest. The legislative session begins on April 10.

Gov. John Bel Edwards has delayed the release of his plan to overhaul Louisiana’s tax structure from Monday (March 27) to Wednesday, to give him and his staff more time to gather information and possibly make changes to the overall approach. The legislative session starts just two weeks from now.

“[Department of Revenue Secretary] Kimberly Robinson has additional data that she is pulling together,” said Richard Carbo, the governor’s spokesman, on Sunday night.

Translation: they test-marketed Edwards’ proposals with a few swing legislators, and the response was “You don’t want me to vote for that, do you?”

Edwards’ interest in gross receipts caught legislators and state budget experts off guard, particularly since it surfaced a couple of weeks ago, only a month before the legislative session is scheduled to start on April 10. By contrast, the income tax plan had been discussed in detail for about a year by the Edwards administration before it was scratched.

“I know very little about it,” said Senate President John Alario, R-Westwego, arguably the most influential member of the state legislature and one of the governor’s strongest political allies, about gross receipts in an interview Friday afternoon.

“I haven’t had a chance to review the ins and outs of it,” said House Speaker Pro Tempore Walt Leger, D-New Orleans, who carried much of the governor’s tax package last year in a separate interview Friday. “It seems there are a lot of questions.”

“Even the people talking about it contradict each other and don’t understand it. They haven’t had enough time to digest it yet,” said Sen. J.P. Morrell, D-New Orleans, the chairman of the Senate committee that oversees tax bills.

We can use a film analogy to explain this – when Hollywood shoots a movie and the “final cut” goes to the studio heads, and then the film goes back to the editing room or to the set to be re-shot, that’s a pretty good indication the movie will suck.

Which fits with this tax plan. Edwards is delaying its release because it has zero chance of passage. The legislature knows it’s a tax increase, and the legislators can read election results. They know that Donald Trump won by 20 points, that Mike Johnson won by 30, that John Kennedy won by almost 25 and that Edwards saw his candidates waxed in Saturday’s special elections. They know that the voters will lustily and vigorously punish raisers of taxes at the next electoral opportunity, and they’re not voting for tax increases regardless of how they may be dressed up.

The governor is in a box of his own making, and he isn’t likely to find many friends willing to help him out of it where tax policy is concerned. The coming session looks like it will be a budget-cutting session, and a painful one for Edwards and his party.

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