The unlikely scenario reads like something out of a Woody Allen parody (for some reason, Sleeper comes to mind.):
State representative in 2009 introduces House Bill 110 that offers generous tax credits (up to $3,000) to those who purchase certain types of automobiles that operate on clean-burning alternative fuels.
Legislative Fiscal Office in its fiscal notes on the bill, project a total five-year cost to the state of $907,000.
Besides the original sponsor, 83 other House members sign on as co-sponsors of the bill. It passes the house, coincidentally, by a vote of 84-12. In the Senate, the vote is 34-0.
Governor, who never met a tax exemption he didn’t like, signs HB 110 into law as Act 469, creating the Alternative Fuel Tax Credit. Everyone is happy.
Fast forward two years to 2011: House member who authored HB 110 is term limited so she decides to seek a Senate seat, thus circumventing the term limitations law as so many others have done.
She loses her race despite an infusion of $2,500 from the governor himself.
The governor, nonetheless grateful for her no-taxes stance in her doomed Senate campaign, in January of 2012 awards her with a job as the second in command of the state’s Revenue and Taxation Department. This despite the fact that she has zero experience and/or qualifications in matters of revenue and taxation; her background is that of a school teacher who also once completed a course in “school principalship.”
Fast forward to April 30: Secretary of Revenue and Taxation and presumed boss of former representative-now-assistant-secretary-of-revenue-and-taxation issues Declaration of Emergency as a means to adopt a rule to administer the tax credit for conversion of vehicles to alternative fuel usage “as provided under R.S. 47:6035.”
R.S. 47:6035, of course, is the number of the state statute pursuant to the passage of HB 110 and its signing into law by the governor as Act 469 of 2009. The statute (R.S. 47:6035) says so. The statute also says in Section G: “The secretary of the Department of Revenue in consultation with the secretary of the Department of Natural Resources shall promulgate rules and regulations in accordance with the Administrative Procedure Act as are necessary to implement the provisions of this Section.”
So, on April 30, the secretary of Revenue issued her Declaration of Emergency in accordance with the statute, written by her under-secretary, passed by the legislature and signed by the governor. The declaration lists 112 models of cars and trucks that qualify, far more than originally anticipated, because of the emergence of “flex fuel” factory vehicles designed with the ability to burn ethanol.
Fast forward to mid-June: The anticipated cost to the state, originally estimated at $907,000 by the Legislative Fiscal Office is now 100 times that, or $100 million, according to the chairman of the House Appropriations Committee.
The Senate president, who voted for the measure three years before and who kept himself busy in his CPA firm filing tax amendments so his clients could claim the credit, was apparently unaware of the ramifications until after a fellow senator blew the whistle.
That senator, who also voted for the bill in 2009, says he alerted the secretary of the Department of Revenue and the commissioner of administration to the potential costs to the state if the bill were allowed to stand (after, of course, filing for his own $3,000 tax credit for a vehicle he had purchased). But neither informed the governor.
Neither did the chairman of the House Appropriations Committee–not even after he had filed for the $3,000 tax credit on each of the two vehicles he had purchased (does anyone see a trend here?).
As might be expected, the excrement hits the Westinghouse oscillating air circulation device and the governor’s office more closely resembles a chicken house invaded by an unwelcome possum than control central where cooler heads are expected to prevail. There is gnashing of hands and wringing of teeth (they can’t even seem to get that right) as everyone runs around wailing, “The sky is falling! What to do? What to do?”
Suddenly, someone came up with the obvious answer. Too bad the person has to remain anonymous because the solution was so obvious: fire the secretary of the Department of Revenue who was so brazen as to issue such an insane directive—or at least force her to resign—but don’t leave any marks; it must be a clean kill.
Never mind the fact she has served three governors during her tenure and no matter that she was carrying out her job to the letter of the law: somebody’s gotta go and it may as well be her. The governor can then appoint the assistant secretary, his old political crony, to the post—just the way he planned to all along. Let the secretary take the fall. What could be better? Brilliant!
Of course all this leaves a few unanswered questions:
• Why did the senator not go to the governor with his concerns in the first place?
• If the secretary of the Department of Revenue has to go because of her failure to pass the word up the line to the governor, what about the commissioner of administration? Is he not equally complicit or derelict?
• What about all those high-salaried lackeys with whom the governor surrounds himself—his communications director, his chief of staff, his executive counsel? Don’t their jobs include the monitoring of pending legislation and its effects? Where were they when all this was going down?
• And the Senate president should have seen the writing on the wall with all those tax amendments he was filing on behalf of his clients—unless he was too preoccupied with making money from his fees.
• How about the governor himself? He signed the bill creating the law with which his revenue secretary was complying.
None of that matters, of course, in this bizarre script. The revenue secretary must be the scapegoat and fall on her sword.
After all, that’s the way this governor likes to do things.
Name one time he has admitted a mistake—from the ill-conceived berms, to the firing of good public servants (too many to name here as the toll keeps mounting), to the privatization of the Office of Risk Management (a fiasco in its own right), to attempts at public employee retirement reform, to issuing hundreds of vouchers to “schools” that are all but non-existent, to backing Rick Perry for president.
His is the finely-honed practice of accepting credit and assessing blame.
As a final twist to this plot, the governor now says that he can’t promise that any outstanding applications for credit on amended returns from 2009, 2010 and 2011 will be honored, leaving open the possibility of litigation by auto buyers who have filed or will file amendments in good faith in accordance with a law already on the books–that the governor signed.
Sorry, folks. Woody Allen just sent word that he has rejected the script as being far too improbable for any moviegoer to believe.