“I wish I knew how to quit ya,” sighs the lovesick cowboy played by Jake Gyllenhaal in the film Brokeback Mountain. That seems to be the attitude of some Republicans when it comes to Gov. John Bel Edwards and the recently passed state budget and sales tax compromise. U.S. Sen. John Neely Kennedy and state Rep. Cameron Henry of Metairie are two who continue to insist the budget — which lowers a temporary 1 percent sales tax to .45 percent — is somehow a tax hike. And when it comes to spinning it as an increase, Louisiana, they just can’t quit ya.
The latest member of the “can’t quit ya” club is state Sen. Sharon Hewitt, R-Slidell, who blasted the compromise after it was reached last month and recently penned a guest editorial for The New Orleans Advocate in which she says of Edwards, “Raising taxes is the easy way out.”
No, the “easy way out” is obstructing without providing concrete solutions and ignoring the facts. Fact: If you bought a taxable item in Louisiana on July 1 — when the new rate kicked in — you paid less than you would have on June 30. Spinning that as a tax increase is disingenuous.
Hewitt and other legislators who continue to rail against the revenue compromise say they’re looking out for their constituents, but their motives seem more selfish — and political. Their aim is to make Edwards look like a big tax-and-spender.
Fact: The Legislature, not Edwards, has had years to come up with a sustainable, responsible revenue plan but was unable to do so until two weeks ago. Fact: After years of former Gov. Bobby Jindal using one-time funds to balance the budget on paper, Edwards got down to the essential but thankless business of coming up with permanent solutions. You can agree or disagree with his proposals, but he didn’t drive the state into a ditch; Jindal did. Edwards is the tow truck driver trying to get us out.
Both Kennedy and Hewitt are eyeing the 2019 gubernatorial race, and in her editorial Hewitt gave a hint at her potential campaign theme: dividing Louisianans over Edwards’ expansion of Medicaid. “Under his program, able-bodied people are given free health care while working families foot the bill,” she wrote.
That’s a lie, and it’s a dog whistle for those who choose to believe Medicaid expansion sucks money out of the pockets of the deserving and gives it to lazy bums. Fact: Expanding Medicaid made it available to hundreds of thousands of working Louisianans whose employers don’t provide health insurance and who can’t otherwise afford it.
“It’s time that we raise our standards and for once stop asking the taxpayers to bail out an inefficient and poorly run state government,” Hewitt concludes. Ironic, considering Hewitt and other ideological purists in the Legislature voted “no” on every revenue proposal this year, forcing the House and Senate into three special sessions that cost taxpayers $60,000 per day.
That's an example of “inefficient and poorly run state government” — and blaming someone else for one’s own failure is the real “easy way out.”