Another day in the administration of Gov. Piyush Jindal and another prevarication.
It seems these days anything that comes out of the present administration in Baton Rouge is subject to instant skepticism and ridicule.
There’s Emailgate, the now infamous emails that State Superintendent of Education sent to members of the governor’s staff in which he outlined a deliberate plan to obfuscate the growing discontent over the approval of 315 vouchers to a school in Ruston that had no facilities, books or teachers to accommodate the additional students.
Now Emailgate has been expanded to the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) which somehow has become embroiled in the controversy over that alternative fuel tax rebate that shortened former Revenue Secretary Cynthia Bridges’s career with the state.
A ruling by Bridges on House Bill 110 of 2009 was signed into law by Jindal as Act 469 to give tax credits to purchasers of vehicles which used alternative fuels such as propane, butane and electricity.
At the time, the tax credit was projected to cost the state about $900,000 over five years but when flex fuel vehicles began hitting the market and Bridges issued her ruling as required by the act, that five-year cost suddenly mushroomed to $100 million.
Administration officials said the governor did not know about the ramifications of the credit until mid-June when he rescinded the rule that he had signed into law three years earlier.
Emails obtained by the Associated Press through a public records request, however, indicate that DNR Secretary Scott Angelle and chief legislative lobbyist for the Jindal administration was told about Bridges’s ruling on May 1, the day after she issued it.
Bridges resigned almost immediately after Jindal rescinded the ruling and was replaced by Jane Smith, leading to speculation that she was pressured to resign to make room for Smith. Smith, it might be remembered, originally authored HB 110 and when she lost her bid to move up to the Senate last October, she was recruited by the administration to take the second-in-command post at Revenue even though, in her own words, she “didn’t know nothing about revenue.”
Adding to the growing lack of credibility in utterances by this administration was an indication that the actual cost of the alternative fuel credits had not been determined, according to the internal emails.
Or instead of a lack of credibility on the part of Piyush and his minions, perhaps it was simply a lack of competence.
Apparently the administration did not bother to ask the right people the right questions.
A routine public records request to the Department of Revenue by LouisianaVoice revealed that 5,456 returns had been received by the department claiming total tax credits of $18,046,454.
That’s 5,456 returns filed and total tax credits of $18 million, Governor, just in case you still haven’t been told.
Those credits were retroactive to the date that Jindal signed the bill into law in 2009—just in case he forgot.
Or in case he wants Communications Director Kyle Plotkin to put his spin on what he says he didn’t know.