Of late the governor has been claiming a lot of achievements. In one amazing comment he is claiming that he saved the state $600 million in taxes. But is this claim based on fact or is it just re-election time and he is taking credit for anything positive, whether he had anything to do with it or not?
The history of the $600 million “savings” starts with his first year in office. You may recall that back then he had cajoled the legislature into approving a short term, one-penny increase in sales tax. He justified this new tax by claiming that he had inherited a $2 billion shortfall from Governor Jindal. That one penny only raised $1 billion and since he claimed that he needed $2 billion right then we should have become wary of his fast-and-loose use of fuzzy math to frighten the people.
Apparently after he was elected he had had an epiphany to the effect that there was such a huge shortfall and that was very surprising as he had run on the promise of no new taxes. It was doubly surprising because he had been integrally involved in the passage of Governor Jindal’s budgets, thus he had intimate knowledge of the fine details contained in those budgets. He even voted for all but one of them. Now one could conjecture that his campaign promise was phony, but that is not the issue here.
As noted that one cent sales tax raised about $1 billion per year and as its expiration approached earlier this year the governor started proffering that we were about to fall off of a steep fiscal cliff. He cleverly crafted his infamous fiscal cliff concept with another surprise. He claimed that we were going to be short somewhere around $1.5 billion, far more than the $1 billion in expiring taxes.
After the legislature repeatedly balked at his demand for more taxes he threatened to shut down LSU football and he inhumanly sent letters to old folks threatening them with eviction if it didn’t approve his bloated budget. Interesting tactics his, fear and hyperbole, but each time the legislature balked he just lowered the amount needed to avert from falling into the abyss. Lower and lower we went until in the end the budget was finally balanced with a seven-year tax increase of 0.445 cents or just over $400 million.
Clearly his demand for more than $1 billion in tax increases was inflated beyond reason and accompanied by questionable tactics. This was a classic case on how not to persuade legislators of the wisdom of your arguments. His rapidly diminished credibility was why the legislature continually voted down all his efforts until it finally passed its own, much smaller increase.
No, the governor did not reduce taxes by $600 million. The truth is if he had gotten his way taxes would currently be increased unnecessarily by over $1 billion per year. So now the irony is he is claiming that he created a tax cut when actually he was forced to accept far less than he demanded of the legislature.
There is one more interesting aside to his argument that he has been saving taxpayer’s money. According to the House Fiscal Office, during the last budget year of Governor Jindal, the state’s effort toward the total means of finance (all of the revenue derived directly from all state sources including business and personal taxpayers without any Federal funds) was $14.1 billion. The current state effort following Governor Edwards’ first three years in office is now $19.84 billion. That’s an increase per year of about $6 billion more of in-state derived funds being spent than when Governor Jindal was in office. And all that taxpayer money is just flowing into Governor Edwards’ vision of ever-growing government, no matter the impact upon the private sector.
For that tax money do we have better education? Do we have better roads and bridges? Do we have better anything? All he can show for $6 billion a year is an early release of a minimal number of convicts and a massive healthcare plan that will cost us $100 million more per year compounded for as far as the economists can estimate. Let me make that last point clear, in 10 years we will have to either raise taxes by a billion dollars per year or cut a billion dollars per year from other state priorities. Now that’s a real Edwardsian fiscal cliff.
Yes, its re-election time. We are going to hear all kinds of puffed-up stories, but our own eyes don’t deceive us. The governor didn’t save us $600 million in taxes. In actuality, because he refused to reform government spending he cost us more than $400 million per year in additional taxes; taxes that have disappeared into the maw of that giant bureaucratic beast known as state government.
Now as a free citizen of Louisiana you have the right to believe what you will, but tread carefully lest you buy into election year political nonsense. Just remember the statement about saving $600 million comes from the same source that was going to shut down LSU football and was going to throw old people out of nursing homes! You be the judge of its validity.