“ It’s a complex process with a lot of moving parts.”
Wiser words were never spoken by Gov. Bobby Jindal, who viewed with apparent calm a revolt against his budget plans in the state House of Representatives.
Depending on the count, about $600 million to $700 million in reduced tax credits and exemptions, and a small increase in the cigarette tax ($68 million) are part of the House’s plans to fill the holes in Jindal’s incomplete budget.
Such independence of thought among lawmakers is new, albeit forced on members by the consequences of Jindal’s proposed cuts to universities and to health care.
Better to trim back tax credits and exemptions than face a collapse in higher education or fail to open the gleaming new hospital in New Orleans, or other serious consequences of the Jindal budget.
Then why, to borrow from Mark Twain, is the governor viewing the position with the calm confidence of a Christian holding four aces?
The moving parts are one issue. The raft of revenue-raisers have to go to the Senate, whose President John Alario, of Westwego, is the acknowledged master of the dark legislative arts. He seeks to reconcile the governor’s doctrinaire opposition to most of the House-passed bills with the need for revenue to plug the budget holes.
We do not know if that is possible.
Even if it is mathematically possible, the moving parts will require a remarkable level of cooperation among members of the House and Senate, the business lobbyists with such great influence and a governor who is prone to use his veto pen to burnish his anti-tax credentials on the national stage.
Even with the lobbyists swarming, the House votes were a revolt against business as usual. The governor’s calm reflects an awareness that he still holds aces in his hand.
The problem for the state is that a budget structured along Jindal’s original proposal would be a catastrophe for Louisiana communities and our future. It’s high stakes and not just a game of cards.