Our Views: Blame Bobby? Not so fast

Perhaps it is difficult to pinpoint one particular point as hypocrisy season in the State Capitol, but one of the high — or low — points has to be when legislators take up the state budget and blame Gov. Bobby Jindal for cuts to higher education, or health care, or Mom and apple pie.

Yes, Jindal is the most important official in the Capitol, and we agree that his financial management of the state has been severely lacking. He embraces a cut-taxes philosophy, if one can call it that, even when that means the state doesn’t pay its bills and debts, nor invest in the future.

But is that short-term and highly political approach limited to the governor? Obviously not, but that doesn’t stop legislators from blaming Jindal.

In 2002, Louisiana voters passed a landmark tax reform called the Stelly Plan, after then-Rep. Vic Stelly, of Lake Charles. It cut state sales taxes on groceries, home utilities and prescription drugs. The Stelly Plan balanced the books by raising income taxes through a change in brackets and deductions.

Over the years, governors and legislators — ever sensitive to the views of higher-income voters — reduced income taxes by repealing the Stelly provisions. The sales tax cuts were constitutionally protected.

This didn’t start with Jindal, but began with some tax cuts in the administration of Gov. Kathleen Blanco. If Jindal has certainly made the situation worse, who voted for reckless tax cuts in the Legislature? It wasn’t the governor pushing those buttons in the House and the Senate.

Nor have legislators stopped giving away the state’s tax base. Meanwhile, we see unwise if not tragic cuts in higher education and infrastructure and health care.

We see the Jindal administration indirectly raising taxes on the people of New Orleans by demanding paybacks on disaster loans that the state promised would not be collected. This is hypocrisy on the part of an “anti-tax” governor, who also as quietly as possible has backed fee increases and other ways to increase revenue without having the political courage to say so upfront. Yet where is the pushback from lawmakers?