Far more than his predecessors Mike Foster and Kathleen Blanco, the ideological matters to Gov. Bobby Jindal. So the tax-averse governor’s proposal to reassess some tax credits and exemptions in answer to the current state budget crisis is worthy of note.
But Jindal’s suggested solution to the budget quagmire is less than comprehensive, and some of its particulars appear to defy common sense.
The administration has previously been critical of a few of the tax credits and exemptions that have disfigured the state tax code and eroded state revenues to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars in the past few years. Curiously, the governor didn’t propose cutting or eliminating those — for example, an enterprise zone credit and movie tax credits. Instead, he’s suggesting changes to the way the state reimburses industries that pay inventory taxes imposed by local governments. There is surely some room for cutting these subsidies, which have increased threefold in 10 years, presumably because of questionable decisions about what constitutes inventory. The way to do it is to find out where the superinflationary increase is coming from.
But the governor’s targeting of inventory taxes while sparing other lavish tax credits seems inspired by political expedience rather than enlightened policy. Cutting reimbursements for local inventory taxes would not, technically, be a tax increase at the state level, allowing Jindal to maintain the no-new-tax pledge he’s apparently embraced as part of his presidential ambitions.
It’s a feat of contortion that asks Louisiana’s core industries to shoulder a greater local tax burden while Hollywood filmmakers and their celebrity friends live lavishly on the state’s dime. Conservative values, this is not.
Jindal’s cravenly political motivations shadow other parts of his proposed budget. His suggested cuts to the state’s educational testing program, for example, are pure spite in an ongoing and needlessly partisan battle over national standards for academic performance.
At the very least, though, the governor’s opening concessions on tax policy appear to reflect a basic acknowledgment that the state’s budget challenges demand active negotiation. But advancing constructive compromise requires the governor’s ongoing engagement.
Characteristically, Jindal sent down his budget proposal and promptly left town for a national political gathering in Florida.
That’s not leadership, and it doesn’t reflect well on any governor, especially one who aspires to lead the free world.