Our Views: Tax plan a nonstarter

Skeptics about Gov. Bobby Jindal’s tax plan have pointed often to the uncertainties about the details of the shift of some $3 billion in tax burden.

“Here we are a week before the Legislature is due to open,” said state Rep. John Bel Edwards, D-Amite, noting that only rough drafts of legislation have been offered by Jindal’s aides. Edwards questioned whether such a complex tax change is ready for prime time. It certainly seems that if this plan is as important as Jindal suggests, his advisers would have a very detailed plan to present. Instead, it’s almost as if they are making much of it up as they go along.

Nonetheless, our view is that there is quite enough on the record, in the governor’s statements and those of his top aides, to oppose the increase in sales taxes that would provide most of the money to eliminate the corporate and personal income taxes.

We oppose the “swap,” because the losers appear to be many local businesses, as well as the folks at the working end of the class structure. The winners are the higher-end taxpayers in Louisiana and the corporate interests outside of the state that Jindal has so often catered to.

In 2002, we strongly backed the Stelly tax reform plan that eliminated sales taxes on groceries, prescription drugs and residential utilities. One key argument was that those sales taxes were regressive, and hurt the families at the lower end of the ladder who are seeking to make it in society.

The Stelly income tax increases to pay for the sales tax cuts were gradually repealed, leading to years of financial instability for the state government and the services that working people rely on.

The latest Jindal plan is only another step in shifting burdens away from the prosperous and toward the struggling.

While the Jindal plan should be a nonstarter in the Legislature, we reject the harsh criticisms from Jindal that those opposed to his regressive plan are opposed to changes in the state’s tax structure. We think there is room for improvement in the tax code. Who does not?

Yet, unbelievably, it is Jindal, the champion of corporate interests, who accuses those opposed to his plan of protecting “special-interest tax breaks.” In different ways, those breaks have flourished on Jindal’s watch.

To adopt the rhetoric of tax reform to push such a regressive plan is to expect the people to be foolish of their own interests.

As we have said before, Jindal had tax reform in the provisions of the Stelly plan’s income tax provisions. He threw that reform away, and now wishes to make the state’s financial situation worse for his successors, not better.