Gov. Bobby Jindal has gone to a lot of trouble to have an anti-tax group certify that all his dicey plans for next year’s state budget wouldn’t raise taxes.
But as a congressman eight years ago, Jindal bucked Grover Norquist’s Americans for Tax Reform and he was scolded.
The Washington, D.C.-based group in July 2007 called Jindal out as one of 18 Republican “Pledge Breakers” in Congress for his vote on a provision that “would take away net income tax deductions to corporations.” Signers of the ATR’s Pledge in 2007 had agreed to oppose any “net” reduction of deductions or credits “unless matched dollar for dollar by further reducing tax rates.”
A provision in the massive 2007 Farm Bill that Jindal supported did not comply, according to the group. “This $7.8 billion, pledge-violating tax increase is unacceptable,” the letter stated.
When Jindal was asked in an email Wednesday to explain his 2007 vote, the governor’s press officer, Mike Reed, responded with a prepared statement: “Folks who want to raise taxes in Louisiana are going to try all sorts of creative ways to make their case. It’s not going to happen. We are not going to raise taxes in Louisiana.”
The Americans for Tax Reform did not return request for comment.
During his seven years as governor, Jindal has opposed all efforts to raise revenues without balancing with spending cuts — which the ATR construes as raising taxes.
But it’s his adherence to the pledge, as Jindal flirts with running for president, in trying to balance next year’s budget that has many legislators concerned.
Jindal’s plan for the fiscal year that begins July 1 relies on a number of revenue-raising measures, which require changes to dozens of state laws, along with spending cuts to balance a budget that is $1.6 billion short of the money needed to pay for services.
Among the many plans Jindal proposed — and ATR apparently approved — is allowing taxpayers to apply their tax credits against their tax liabilities, but only to the amount they owe. The remainder would be kept by the state rather than refunded in a check, as has been practiced in the past. Another idea would be to hike the cigarette tax, but offset the amount raised with a credit that would cover increased fees at public universities.
Legislators, even those who, like Jindal, have signed the pledge, are concerned that Jindal’s plans are too contingent on clearing a number of hurdles first. If they fail, then the Legislature would have no choice but to make deep cuts in many services, but primarily in the funding for higher education and health care. Or they could raise taxes, which Jindal has vowed to veto, during an election year.
For instance, in a recent email to his supporters about the budget crisis, state Rep. Jay Morris, R-Monroe, wrote, “The insanity has its roots in the governor’s pledge to Americans for Tax Reform.” Morris said the way ATR judges revenue proposals for acceptability is “illogical, inconsistent and downright misleading to the public, or, in the opinion of some, crazy.”
Jindal responded to Morris in an interview in Iowa saying, “My pledge means something.”
Dozens of news articles, tweets and commentaries outline Jindal’s efforts to balance the state budget in a way that would not get him in hot water with the anti-tax crusaders whose opinions are valued by the Republican electorate.
Democratic consultant James Carville wrote a letter to the LSU Reveille calling Norquist “the single most influential person in the entire state of Louisiana” and blaming him for huge expected higher education cuts and calling him “pond scum.”
Even Norquist joked on Twitter with mock exasperation about being dubbed as having “complete control of only Louisiana.”