Little is more hypocritical — if not downright bizarre — in the Jindal administration than the governor’s attitude toward renewal of existing taxes.
It’s one thing for Gov. Bobby Jindal to say that he is opposed to new taxes. It’s another thing to oppose existing taxes, as he did last year in a quixotic attempt to scuttle renewal of a state cigarette tax. Jindal’s veto was upheld in the state House, but lawmakers worked around his objections by putting the four-cents-per-pack tax in the language of a constitutional amendment that the public eventually passed.
It’s the sort of decision — lowering the cigarette tax, when most jurisdictions are raising similar levies — that gives credence to the theory that Jindal is obsessed with grandstanding for national ultra-conservatives.
It’s also hypocritical. Jindal has backed raising college tuition and raising various fees for different agencies. It’s as if there is some sort of mystical decision-making process that impels the governor to use his veto pen on renewals of some taxes, even as he raises state revenue by indirection.
Another example: Local government in Baton Rouge and other cities will lose revenue because of the same gubernatorial fetish.
Jindal vetoed bills to extend the existing tax, one-half of 1 percent of the lease cost, levied by several cities, on automobile rentals and leases.
“I have made a commitment to the taxpayers of Louisiana to oppose all attempts to raise taxes,” Jindal wrote in a veto message that explains nothing. If it’s a renewal, it’s not raising a tax, by definition. It’s keeping it where it exists.
The four bills vetoed would have prevented the expiration of a local portion of a tax that has existed for 22 years.
Decades of precedent mean nothing, it seems, as legislation moves over the gubernatorial Ouija board. Then the veto pen strikes, on the basis of logic that eludes us.
We share the puzzlement of state Rep. Regina Barrow, D-Baton Rouge, who was among the legislators pushing the renewal bills.
“I don’t know what to say,” Barrow said. “I thought we had worked through the issues they had. We compromised, we made some changes and they said they were OK with the bill. I’m stumped.”
Baton Rouge received a little less than $1 million a year for its share of the state tax on rental cars. That’s money that was paid mostly by travelers, not local residents. Now locals must make up whatever the tax paid for in the cities were it was levied. As a local revenue matter, it would be rare for a governor to intervene to cut cities’ revenues in this way.
What’s a revenue bill that’s offensive to the governor’s anti-tax purity, and what’s not? Like Barrow, we’re stumped.