Administration insiders confide that Tim Barfield, executive counsel and Revenue secretary-designate Tim Barfield is “in over his head” and has been removed from Gov. Jindal’s struggling tax swap team.
That might seem like a demotion for a man who has been on the job for only six months. But considering the fact that the waters of Jindal’s state tax structure overhaul have been circling the drain for weeks and are now starting to make that familiar gurgling sound, even an involuntary separation from the Jindal tax team could be looked upon as a blessing.
The governor has seen one political ally after another break with him on his ever-changing tax plan, including the heretofore compliant House Speaker Chuck Kleckley, R-Lake Charles who put the Ways and Means Committee hearing on the tax plan on hold until House staffers complete an analysis that would give legislators a better handle on how much money the Jindal plan would raise.
The once friendly Louisiana Association of Business and Industry (LABI) also walked away from Jindal, whom the organization has traditionally supported.
Ernst & Young, the consulting firm hired by Jindal to perform an economic analysis of his tax plan even said the proposed tax swap, which would abolish the state income tax in favor of increased sales taxes, was a bad idea.
Making matters worse, Jindal recently upped the ante from the previous 5.88 percent sales tax to 6.25 percent, leaving observers scratching their heads over the administration’s inability to articulate any real plan.
On Wednesday, April 3, an emissary from the governor’s office showed up at the Department of Revenue (LDR) to demand new reports and numbers on revenue collections, saying the information was needed by the start of the session.
LDR staffers have been grinding away at the database in an attempt to comply with the governor’s ultimatum to somehow manufacture the numbers necessary to placate the legislature.
Meanwhile, Team Jindal, through Believe in Louisiana, the 527 non-profit organization founded by Baton Rouge Business Report Publisher Rolfe McCollister to solicit funds to advance the Jindal agenda, has made a half-million dollar media buy to initiate a slick TV ad campaign in support of the tax plan.
Many of the names of the big money men behind Jindal show up as Believe in Louisiana donors and the organization, unfettered by campaign donation limits, has pulled in individual contributions as large as $225,000, swelling its coffers to well over a million dollars.
“I don’t know why they’re throwing good money after that dog,” said one Democratic leader of the ad campaign.
Barfield, who previously served as labor secretary and as Jindal’s executive Counsel before leaving to work for home health provider Amedisys.
In order to lure Barfield away from Amedisys, Jindal added the title of executive counsel and gave him a combined salary of $250,000, more than double the $124,000 paid his predecessor, Cynthia Bridges.
Until Friday, he had been Jindal’s point man on the tax proposal, but Jindal could not have been happy two weeks ago when Barfield testified before the House Ways and Means Committee that the proposed tax swap would shift about $500 million in taxes to businesses, a statement that helped galvanize the business community against the tax swap.
At that time, he was still talking about a 5.88 percent state sales tax. Jindal has since bumped that up to 6.25 percent.