For five long years now we have patiently (or impatiently in some cases) awaited the arrival of all that transparency touted by Gov. Bobby Jindal upon his part time occupancy of the governor’s office.
Now it seems that heretofore elusive aspect of the Jindal administration has finally arrived.
No, it wasn’t Superintendent of Education John White telling News Corp. Senior Vice President Peter Gorman (aka “Dude”) that he is White’s “recharger.”
Nor is the LSU Board of Supervisors which has refused to release the names of applicants for LSU president on the grounds that the applications are conveniently (convenient for the board and the administration, that is) submitted to a Dallas consulting firm which, being a private entity, is not subject to the public records law.
It wouldn’t be the Louisiana Office of Economic Development either. LED a couple of years back refused to surrender records to the Legislative Auditor’s office so that the state auditors could perform the function with which they are charged—auditing the state’s books.
And, needless to say, it is not Attorney General Buddy Caldwell, who found a way to punt on our request for assistance in prevailing upon the Department of Education to comply with the Louisiana public records law (the law, the AG’s office informed us, says it can intervene on behalf of the public meetings law but there is no provision for it to assist with public records).
That’s a classic case of legal hair splitting, but hey, the attorney general’s office is the official legal counsel for state agencies (a veritable horde of state-contracted legal counsels notwithstanding), so who are we to argue? We’re just the low-lifes who work, pay taxes and vote in this state. Never mind some 80 or so (we finally quit counting when we reached that number) legal opinions by the AG issued to various state agencies which opine that public records must be surrendered.
But we digress (as we often do).
No, it’s none of those. The shocker here is that the transparency that has suddenly and without warning opened up before our very eyes originates in none other than the governor’s office.
Yep, chalk one up for Bobby, our part time, absentee governor who would rather run for president than run the state.
Don’t believe us? Still harboring some doubts as to the veracity of our claim?
Well, we have the proof.
Jindal is proposing scrapping the state personal and corporate income tax and replacing it with…well, something. He hasn’t the vaguest idea what (he said earlier this month that he’s still working on details of his plan).
In general terms, Jindal is talking about an increase in the state sales tax and a dollar increase in the cigarette tax (remember when he refused to sign the renewal of the 4-cent cigarette tax because, he said, he was opposed to “new” taxes?).
Never mind that a sales tax would hit the low- and middle-income taxpayers the very hardest http://louisianavoice.com/2013/01/16/par-lsu-economist-richardson-cast-doubts-on-%CF%80-yush-plan-to-replace-louisiana-income-tax-with-state-sales-tax-increase/, abolishment of state income taxes has become the mantra of Republican governors nationwide because it would represent the ultimate tax break (read: political reward) for corporate campaign donors.
But rather than rely on the lack of merits in a weak proposal, Jindal has enlisted his minions to launch a letter-writing campaign in support of his as yet incomplete tax plan.
That’s correct: the plan isn’t even completed, much less polished and officially presented to the legislature and the public, but the letter-writing campaign has already started. Never mind that the plan has as yet progressed no further than a two-page outline pretentiously entitled “A Framework for Comprehensive Tax Reform.” It apparently suffices for the purposes of initiating a well-orchestrated PR campaign from the governor’s office or perhaps from Timmy Teepell’s OnMessage (Oops, we forgot; they are one and the same).
It officially began on Feb. 20 with the publication in newspapers statewide of a letter by LED Secretary and presumed future LSU President/Chancellor/High Potentate Stephen Moret.
Boiled down to its essentials, Moret’s 12-paragraph letter claims that Jindal’s undefined, unreleased, still-in-the-works, everything-still-on-the-table plan would somehow magically bump Louisiana from No. 32 to No. 4 in something called the State Business Tax Climate.
Fine for business climate, yes, but Moret conveniently neglects how that plan, still being formulated somewhere out there in the fog-enshrouded concepts of the policy wonks, would affect the working stiffs. An addition 2 or 3 percent on the sales tax for the purchase of say, a package of toilet paper won’t be such a burden. But tack that same 2 or 3 percent onto the cost of a new refrigerator, central air and heating unit or a new automobile and suddenly, in the words of the late Illinois Sen. Everett Dirksen, you’re talking about real money.
But no matter; Moret obviously had his marching orders: write a glowing letter about how the Jindal Plan (not to be confused with the Stelly Plan that he repealed, at a cost to the state of about $300 million a year) would be great for business—and everyone knows, as President Calvin Coolidge said way back in 1925, “The chief business of the American people is business.” (The stock market crash, of course, was only four years away when he said that, which subsequently put a lot of American people out of business.)
Exactly a week after Moret’s letter, on Feb. 27, the Baton Rouge Advocate (and probably a few other papers across the state) published a second letter endorsing the still mythical tax plan. This one was written by someone named Matthew Glans, who identifies himself as senior policy analyst for The Heartland Institute in Chicago (described by The Economist last May as “The world’s most prominent think tank promoting skepticism about man-made climate change,” according to the institute’s own web page) and which also describes itself as an advocate of free market policies.
Probably its greatest claim to fame, however, came in the 1990s, when it worked with Philip Morris in attempts to debunk the science linking secondhand smoke to health issues and to lobby against government public-health reforms.
(The Heartland Institute bears an eerie resemblance to the fictional “myFACTS” currently being lampooned by Garry Trudeau in the comic strip Doonesbury.)
Glans calls Jindal’s plan “a strong step towards improving the state’s economic competitiveness and returning tax dollars to Louisiana citizens and businesses.”
At the same time he cautions against a system “that allows the government to choose winners and losers.”
“A tax system filled with tax increases on targeted items such as tobacco or subsidies for certain businesses (read: tobacco, in states like North Carolina), however, is not sound policy,” he says, adding, “A system that lowers rates across the board, like much of Jindal’s proposal, would spur economic growth.”
Strange how Glans, sitting in Chicago, could know so much about the part time, absentee governor’s tax plan when Jindal himself confesses that his “plan” is still evolving and stranger still that he would single out tobacco (and tobacco subsidies) as a potential victim of increased sales taxes.
Curious, too, that he is so knowledgeable when legislators remain in the dark.
But, hey, we wanted transparency from our governor.
And this “independent” letter-writing campaign is about as transparent as it gets.