A top official in the Jindal administration was notified shortly after the Louisiana revenue department issued a controversial ruling that expanded an alternative fuel vehicle tax credit.
The ruling was later rescinded by the governor as complaints raged that it could devastate the state budget.
A spokesman for Gov. Bobby Jindal has said the governor didn’t know of the tax credit expansion until mid-June. But internal Department of Revenue emails show that Jindal aide Scott Angelle was told by one of his employees about the rule governing the alternative fuel tax credit — which greatly expanded the list of eligible vehicles — on May 1, the day after it was issued by the agency.
The emails show that the true cost of the credit expansion is not yet known and imply that then-Revenue Secretary Cynthia Bridges may have been pushed out of her job because of the contentious issue.
Jindal scrapped the rule June 14.
Bridges abruptly resigned the next day with no explanation.
An email by interim Revenue Secretary Jane Smith suggests Bridges’ leaving was tied to the vehicle tax credit and claims Bridges didn’t notify the governor and his staff about the rule.
Angelle, the governor’s natural resources secretary and chief legislative lobbyist, was on a May 1 email list with three others, including an official with General Motors and a lobbyist at the Louisiana Capitol, giving them the link to the regulations governing the Alternative Fuel Tax Credit.
“I am passing this information along since I’m aware of your keen interest in the matter,” Isaac Jackson, Angelle’s general counsel at the natural resources department, wrote in the email, which was then forwarded to a revenue department employee.
In a statement issued through a spokesman, Angelle said he doesn’t remember receiving or reading the email. “I wasn’t aware of any previous correspondence. I first became aware of the emergency rule on June 14 when notified by a legislator,” he said.
The Revenue Department declaration expanded the list of qualifying vehicles for the tax credit. Lawmakers who learned of the credit expansion worried it could become a budget-buster, costing the cash-strapped state millions of dollars more than projected for the tax break passed in 2009.
Jindal’s office said the rule was rescinded because the law governing issuance of an emergency rule was not followed.
A June 14 email from Angelle also talks of the legislative worries about the financial impacts of the expanded list of vehicles and asks for further details, referring to a conversation he had with Louisiana House Appropriations Committee Chairman Jim Fannin, D-Jonesboro.
“I just heard from chairman fannin and he expressed concern about tax credits being allowed for ‘alternative fuel’ vehicles other than natural gas and electric ... He is concerned of the impact this will have on fisc and believes it is not consistent with the legislature’s intent. Can you provide any info?” Angelle wrote to Bridges.
That same day, Jindal rescinded the emergency rule.
The tax break, approved by lawmakers in 2009, was designed as an incentive for buying “clean-burning” vehicles or converting cars and trucks to lessen the reliance on gasoline and diesel and encourage alternative fuels, like compressed natural gas and ethanol. Smith, the interim revenue secretary, sponsored the tax break three years ago when she was in the Legislature.
The tax credit can be 10 percent of the cost of vehicle or $3,000, whichever is less. The regulations approved by Bridges swept in new “flex fuel” cars and trucks with the ability to burn ethanol.
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