By Robert Mann
Come with me back to the good old days, when Gov. Bobby Jindal was a fearless crusader against the special interests and the obscene tax credits negotiated by their dastardly lobbyists.
Let us travel all the way to March 19, 2013.
As it stands today, we have over 460 loopholes on the books that make our system complex, volatile and unfair. That’s why I want to overhaul our tax code by eliminating income taxes and getting rid of loopholes that allow powerful special interests to game the system.
Under the current system, if you have a lobbyist and lawyer, you have a loophole. Let me put that a different way. In 2011, we actually went in the hole on corporate income tax by some $76 million.
In other words, we actually paid companies through loopholes to not pay corporate income tax. Think about that – we sent more taxpayer dollars to corporations than they paid in income taxes to the state. That goes to show you our tax system is unfair and riddled with loopholes and exemptions. That’s why along with eliminating income taxes, we’re going to eliminate over 200 loopholes.
Powerful special interest groups will no longer be able to rig the system. That means everyone will pay their fair share, but no more than that.
Remember the TV spots the Jindal-backed group, “Believe in Louisiana,” aired last month, attacking the special interests and their lobbyists for trying to protect their tax credits?
Now, fast forward to Monday (a mere seven weeks after his March speech in Houma), when an angry Jindal stood before the Capitol press corps, flanked by many of those same lobbyists who still represent the special interests he once disdained.
The source of Jindal’s anger?
Why, certain members of the Legislature want to temporarily cut by 15 percent some of the same corporate tax credits that Jindal once hoped to abolish.
As noted in Tuesday’s New Orleans Times-Picayune:
A $329 million cut in two dozen tax exemptions and a $106 million reduction in spending feature prominently in a bipartisan deal to strip $525 million in one-time money from Louisiana’s budget. The plan would use about half the money taken out of the $24.7 billion budget to fund non-recurring expenses in state government, including road construction, coastal protection and paying down the debt in the state’s pension system.
The details of the proposal, which were circulated to members of the media after Republicans and Democrats separately caucused on the plan, lay out a plan that would boost state revenues by shrinking state tax credits by 15 percent and rely on a[n] increase in existing projections of state tax revenue to balance the budget. The plan would also cut the amount retailers receive for collecting sales taxes and cut other deductions and exemptions. . . .
About $91.7 million would be plugged into the budget by shrinking tax breaks by 15 percent. The tax breaks to be trimmed are: the Motion Picture Investor Tax Credit; the Investment Tax Credit for insurance premiums; the Enterprise Zone program; tax credits for rehabilitation of historic structures; industrial tax equalization; the New Markets tax credit; the research and development tax credit; the Quality Jobs tax credit; tax breaks for wind and solar systems and the conversion of vehicles to alternative fuels; school readiness tax credits; the Louisiana Capital Companies credit; credits for musical and theatrical live performances, digital and interactive media and sound recording; credits for angel investors and investors in brownfields; credits for recycling manufacturing; credits for milk producers; the Sugarcane Transportation Credit; and the apprenticeship tax credit.
Jindal now hates this idea, of course. As reported by the Baton Rouge Advocate.
The governor called a news conference Monday afternoon to accuse legislators of working in secret on a $500 million tax increase that would impact families and businesses.
Surrounding Jindal were representatives for the farming, forestry, film, wind/solar system and health insurance industries. “I just want to call on the Legislature to open up the process. Let the people’s voices be heard,” the governor said.
The governor gave lobbyists, legislators and industry leaders each a turn at the microphone in front of print, television and radio media.
Joe Mapes, a lobbyist for the Louisiana Farm Bureau, said the organization needs to be part of the deliberations on a new budget plan. “When we’re not at the table, we’re on the menu,” he said.
This is the same Jindal, of course, who last month was busy pushing a tax plan that, by his own aides’ admission, would have raised taxes on Louisiana business by $500 million a year.
As the Times-Picayune reported on March 19:
Businesses will bear much of the burden of making Gov. Bobby Jindal’s tax swap plan revenue neutral, with higher and broader sales taxes on their purchases offsetting the elimination of the state’s personal and corporate income taxes and franchise fees, a top administration aide said Monday. Department of Revenue Executive Counsel Tim Barfield, who is serving as point man on the tax overhaul, acknowledged that many businesses will pay more under the proposal, which has been touted as a way to attract more business to the state.
“It’s very clear that business will be taking more of this burden,” he said.
Give Jindal credit for his breathtaking audacity. Most of us would have too much self-respect to run television spots attacking greedy lobbyists and their tax credits in April — and then hold a press conference in May with the very same lobbyists to defend the very same tax credits.
Most of us would shrink from proposing a $500 million tax increase on business in March — and then denounce a temporary $92 million in revenue increases on the same businesses in April.
The mind reels.