GOP lawmakers voted for $1 billion in taxes during special session, but state party blames Gov. Edwards in fundraising appeal _lowres

Advocate staff photo by BILL FEIG -- On the first day of the regular legislative session, Gov. John Bel Edwards, right, pauses after talking about previous special session and Louisiana's financial difficulties, while addressing the joint session at 1:00 on the State of the State.

Leaders of the Louisiana Republican Party like to point out that the GOP holds majorities in both houses of the Legislature.

They shouted it from the rooftops during the fight over who should be House speaker. Gov. John Bel Edwards backed fellow Democrat Walt Leger for the job. But the House broke with tradition and rejected the governor’s choice, instead selecting Republican Taylor Barras. Barras then installed a leadership team that skewed heavily Republican.

In the just-concluded special session, lawmakers addressed a potentially crippling budget shortfall by passing more than $1 billion in taxes, something that would not have been possible with only Democratic votes. In fact, majorities of both parties wound up supporting a temporary sales tax increase and other revenue-raising measures.

None of these facts are in dispute. Or they shouldn’t be.

Yet a series of glaringly misleading fundraising pleas by the Louisiana Republican Party, delivered via email and the Internet, leaves out all these relevant details and instead puts the responsibility squarely on Edwards. The ads seek $5 contributions from Republicans looking to join the fight against exactly the sort of tax hikes many of the party’s lawmakers backed.

So what do some of those lawmakers think of the effort? Republican state Rep. Jay Morris, who authored a measure ending some sales tax exemptions, had no comment. But state Rep. Lance Harris, the GOP caucus chair and a leading advocate of bringing more partisanship into the traditionally non-partisan Legislature, wished party officials nothing but success.

The fundraising effort is likely to reach some sympathetic folks, and may well raise a few bucks. Before they push this blame game too far, though, GOP officials should consider the results of a recent automated University of New Orleans poll.

The vast majority of people questioned said the state budget is in crisis, but most of them, 55 percent, pointed their fingers at former Gov. Bobby Jindal. Twenty-eight percent blamed the Legislature, and 13 percent specified other factors.

As for Edwards, the newly sworn-in governor and tax-raising bogeyman of the GOP fundraising drive? Just four percent said it was all his fault.

‘Grace notes’ is a daily feature by Advocate columnist Stephanie Grace. To read more of her content, including her full columns, click here.