A swing and a miss. That best describes Republican U.S. Rep. Ralph Abraham’s recent attack on Gov. John Bel Edwards. Abraham, who’s challenging Edwards in the governor’s race, accused the Democrat of criticizing President Donald Trump’s 2017 tax cut legislation.
Edwards sent a letter to Louisiana’s congressional delegation asking members to amend the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act because it increased the federal tax burden on some families of fallen U.S. service members.
“It is with great concern for our Louisiana Gold Star families that I write on their behalf to ask for your timely assistance in helping to correct a painful unintended consequence of the passage of the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act," Edwards said.
Trump’s tax cut legislation, which enjoyed support from all of Louisiana’s congressional delegation, except lone Democrat Cedric Richmond, changed the rules regulating lump sum payments. Edwards, a veteran himself, says it’s recently come to light the tax legislation increased the federal tax burden on families of fallen U.S. service members receiving one-time lump sum payments in survivor benefits. Edwards says the changes quadruple the tax burden for some Gold Star widows and widowers.
“The Louisiana Department of Veterans Affairs and all of our major national veteran service organizations join me in requesting that this oversight be corrected,” Edwards wrote.
Meanwhile, Abraham accused the governor of criticizing Trump’s tax cut reforms.
"Gov. Edwards' letter is a transparent attempt to use Gold Star families to take a shot at President Trump over his signature tax reforms because any amount of research would have shown the governor that efforts are well underway to resolve the benefits issues concerning certain Gold Star families," Abraham said in a news release.
But Edwards’ letter is not critical of Trump. The governor characterizes the tax cut’s impact on Gold Star families as “an unintended consequence” of Trump’s legislation. He also called the matter an “oversight.” Hardly the mean-spirited accusatory rhetoric typically dominating today’s political landscape.
But Abraham’s communication director, Cole Avery, told me he’s standing by the accusation that Edwards criticized Trump.
“I think it’s the latest in a salvo of assaults on the tax cut reform from his camp, whether it’s his Gumbo Pac, or the Democrats, or him,” said Avery.
But Edwards shouldn’t be held accountable for what other Democrats say. And by law, Edwards is prohibited from coordinating with Gumbo Pac, a political action committee supporting the governor. When I asked Avery if he could provide a single example of Edwards criticizing Trump’s tax cuts, he admitted he couldn’t.
“I don’t think you are going to find it because he walks a very fine line where he doesn’t say anything about the president except when he wants to appear he’s close to him, “ said Avery.
But while Avery couldn’t cite a specific example, he did claim the governor has criticized Trump’s tax cuts indirectly.
“Anytime where you see him talking about the federal budget deficit in Washington, he is talking that based on the result of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act,” said Avery.
But Edwards is far too politically savvy to take on Trump while running for re-election in a deeply conservative state. The president received more votes than any candidate in state history when running for president. Edwards has also bragged in the past of Trump telling him he was his favorite Democrat. How many Democrats do you know who would brag about such a thing?
Plus, Trump’s tax cut legislation has given Edwards more money to spend as governor. Louisiana taxpayers can deduct what they pay in federal income taxes from their state taxes. Lower federal taxes mean fewer deductions and, as a result, higher state taxes.
And Edwards has also benefited from Trump’s tax cuts setting the national economy on fire, which has also boosted Louisiana’s growth. That’s a good thing for Edwards running as an incumbent.
“The governor appreciates all that President Trump has done for Louisiana and looks forward to working with him to further help correct this painful unintended consequence,” said Edwards’ communications director, Shauna Sanford, regarding amending the tax cut legislation to help Gold Star families.
Email Dan Fagan at email@example.com. Twitter: @DanFaganShow.