The goings-on at this year’s Louisiana legislative session are going to give us a case of inflated egos if the leges don’t stop making our predictions come true – and particularly with respect to the bill by Rep. Steve Carter (R-Baton Rouge) which would hike the state’s gas tax. The bill is to be heard on the House floor tomorrow.
And here’s where things could get really terrible. What’s now being discussed by the desperate folks in favor of the bill is to drop the gas tax increase from the current 17 cents down to 10 cents. Or 8 cents. Or 6 cents. Or 2 cents. Whatever number gets the bill to 70 votes. That’s considered OK to do because once the bill gets into the tax-friendlier Senate, the increase passed by the House is meaningless – the governor wanted a 23 cent increase and that’s what the Senate will pass.
Meaning there will be a conference committee on the bill, and a compromise. If the House’s number is 10 cents and the Senate’s is 23 cents, they’ll meet in the middle at 17 cents – and that increase, which two-thirds of the public is against, will be sold as a good compromise. For the House members who made up the 70 votes at 10 cents, for example, there is no point in changing their vote at 17 – they’re already going to catch hell for voting for a 10 cent increase; might as well be able to claim a deliverable as a road project in their districts.
At least, that’s what they’re going to try to do. As of yesterday the prospects of the tax were still very slim. If you don’t want to pay more at the pump, you might want to contact your legislator and tell him or her so.
In a last ditch bid for House approval, backers of a hike in the state gasoline tax Tuesday said they are seeking a 10 cent per gallon increase, down from 17 cents earlier.
The new plan, if it clears the Legislature, would raise about $300 million per year for roads and bridges compared to $510 million annually under the initial proposal.
State Rep. Steve Carter, R-Baton Rouge and sponsor of the bill, said he scaled back his request because “we were really having a hard time getting the votes” for a 17-cent hike.
“Hopefully we will get some additional traction,” Carter said of the new plan.
The proposal, House Bill 632, is set for a House vote on Wednesday afternoon.
It requires the support of two-thirds of the House, a minimum of 70 votes in the 105-member chamber.
Carter plans to offer an amendment to the measure so that it reflects the revised request.
Without enough support, he said, the entire bill will likely be withdrawn.
“If we don’t have the numbers I don’t think I can make people vote on it,” Carter said.
Carter isn’t saying he’ll ratchet the gas tax increase downward until he can find 70 votes, but that’s precisely what we expect. If he doesn’t do that it will mean Carter is what he says he is with respect to the bill – namely, he’s making a good-faith effort to do something about Louisiana’s terrible roads. We disagree with that because we think it’s naive, and polling on the issue shows Louisiana’s taxpayers agree with us, but we can respect the effort nonetheless.
But if he’s just carrying water for Gov. John Bel Edwards, then 10 cents will become eight cents, or six, or two – whatever rate will break down enough resistance to get to 70 House votes and move the bill to the Senate – where it will be pumped up to whatever gas tax increase the governor and his bootlicker John Alario can devise. And as we said, a House version with a 10 cent increase and a Senate version at 23 cents, or 25 cents, will make for a conference-committee compromise of – you guessed it! – 17 cents.
One hopes, and the word seems to be, that there are more than enough House members who are on to this game and aren’t interested in playing. Carter is going to be asked, by someone, for a guarantee that he will pull his bill rather than allow the Senate to pump up the rates beyond what the House passes. That will be a crucible of sorts, because either he makes that guarantee and passes a gas tax that Edwards has already said is insufficient to address the state’s road problems (not that anybody should attach any credence to Edwards or his minions when they whine about needing more money given the shameless demands they’ve already made), in the knowledge that another gas tax hike won’t be politically possible for a long time or else he refuses the guarantee and it becomes useless to amend the bill to drop the rate of increase to gain more votes.
The effect of this is Carter is in a box, particularly given that the public is fairly steadfastly against the gas tax hike bill. This morning, with thunderstorms gathering, Americans For Prosperity did a media stunt at a Baton Rouge gas station whereby they picked up the tab for 100 customers’ fuel, which resulted in gas as cheap as $1.61 per gallon, to show how much taxes cost consumers to fill up as is, and AFP struck publicity gold with the local media. For example, WAFB…
The conservative advocacy group, Americans for Prosperity, is protesting the Louisiana Legislature’s proposed gas tax increase by hosting what members are calling “Axe the Tax.”
The group camped out Tuesday morning at Rende’s Quick Stop in Baton Rouge and got the owner of the gas station to drop his price to $1.61 per gallon. The group then paid the gas tax for the first 100 vehicles that arrived at the store to have their tanks filled.
The plan was to educate customers about the tax and have them call their legislators to vote against the measure.
“Over the past year, Louisiana has had taxes raised on it more than any other state in the entire nation,” said John Kay, Louisiana director of Americans for Prosperity. “Not to mention, we’re in a job recession and losing wages in the state of Louisiana. We can’t afford another tax increase and this is a big one that would affect everyone in the state of Louisiana and it’s important that we push back on that.”
“It can become very expensive for anyone going to work, transporting kids,” added Tracy Jackson, who received her gas tax free. “So, I appreciate them out here and if you can call your legislator or whoever, you need to call because what you don’t know, you’re paying higher for gas every day.”
Lawmakers originally wanted to raise the tax by 17 cents on the gallon. Facing pushback, they are planning to amend it down to just 10 cents per gallon.
We’re still betting this thing drops dead on the House floor. But if you’re not for paying more at the pump in the blind hope that Louisiana’s Department of Transportation and Development, with its long track record of waste and abuse of its current funding, will magically use its newfound wealth wisely, you might call your representative and tell them so before Wednesday afternoon.
UPDATE: AFP’s response to Carter’s fire sale is entertaining…
“Representative Carter’s decision to drop the proposed gas tax increase from 17 cents to 10 cents shows that the appetite for new taxes in the House is incredibly low. The citizens of Louisiana are against this hike and have made that clear to their legislators. I’m calling on Representative Carter to pull the bill and move on from this ill-advised gas tax hike.”
UPDATE #2: And now the state GOP is joining in on the fun. From a release it just put out…
“Ten cents per gallon in additional gasoline taxes is completely unacceptable,” said Roger F. Villere, Jr., Republican Party of Louisiana Chairman. “The hard working people of this state are not willing to pay two dollars more every time they fill up their car–for the rest of their lives,” Villere said.
“State government spending is out of control. Until Gov. Edwards and the Legislature address constitutional and statutory dedications in a comprehensive manner, I urge the Legislature to not give the governor one more penny in additional taxes,” Villere said.
“With the gas tax hike running on fumes, now is the time to kill this tax,” he said.