They say the key to being good at chess is thinking several moves ahead. I’ll bet Gov. John Bel Edwards is a good chess player. The thing about Democrats like Edwards is they are brilliant tacticians in their quest to grow government. They advance their crusade incrementally, knowing their agenda is mostly unpopular with the public. For example, when Edwards proposed his temporary one-cent sales tax in 2016, he knew he couldn’t get what he really wanted: higher income taxes or new taxes on businesses. He also knew Republicans would be much more likely to go for a sales tax if it were temporary.
The governor is now piggy-backing off his 2016 tax increase to phase two. He wants to fill the close to $1 billion hole in the budget caused by the expiration of his temporary sales tax by placing a heavier burden on our state’s job creators. Instead of renewing the one-cent tax when it expires in June, the governor’s phase two plan would increase taxes on personal income and businesses. Edwards is shifting the burden onto those who drive the economy. In other words, what he wanted to do back in 2016, he’s trying now.
You’ll remember that in 2016, Edwards warned of a financial crisis that would lead to the unplugging of people from dialysis machines, canceling classes at public universities and cutting LSU football funding. Now the governor is using TOPS as his “don’t make me do it” prop. The political theater worked the first time; why not give it another go?
I don’t know about you, but I’ve never been offered a job by someone poorer than me. Higher income and business taxes limit available capital for investment that could have created new jobs. Like it or not, most small business owners are in higher income brackets. When you take more of their money via income or business taxes they have less to invest.
But with a sales tax, everybody pays the same percentage. The wealthy end up paying extra because they buy more stuff. In the end, a sales tax is not designed to punish risk takers and the successful like an income or business tax. Our founding fathers understood the vast difference between a sales and income tax. Politicians had to change the Constitution to enact our nation’s first personal income tax at the turn of the last century.
There’s really only one of two things you can do when state government spends more than it takes in. You can raise taxes or cut spending. With Democrats like Edwards, cutting spending is not an option. I realize Edwards says he’s already cut hundreds of millions from the budget, but the math doesn’t support his claim. After only two years in office, Edwards has the state spending $5 billion more than it did under former Gov. Bobby Jindal’s final budget. About $4 billion of that $5 billion increase comes from Edward’s Medicaid expansion under Obamacare. But another $1.1 billion comes directly from state taxpayers.
Edwards employs fuzzy math to bolster his claim of cutting the budget. He delayed the opening of a new juvenile lockup facility in Bunkie and called it a cut. He also characterized as a cut eliminating dollars from agencies that wasn’t spent on employees because of a hiring freeze. Edwards has also thrown into the cuts category using federal financing to pay for things that state dollars once covered. None of these are actual cuts since they represent expenditures the state hasn't paid for previously. There’s no crying in baseball, and when Democrats are in charge there’s no cutting in government.
The state now spends an average of an extra $208 million per month since Edwards took office. Some $45 million extra each month comes directly from Louisiana taxpayers. We’re told there’s no room for cuts. Louisiana has the second worst-performing economy in the nation, according to a recent study by WalletHub, and yet the governor wants to target our state’s job creators. If voters could see the Edwards big government agenda fully revealed, they would resoundingly reject it. His best shot at advancing it is in small doses, with the hope that we don’t catch on until it’s too late.