While proposals to increase taxes may be dead on arrival when reaching Gov. Bobby Jindal’s desk, the administration seems willing to at least review fee changes this session, based on a request for comment by LaPolitics.
But how lawmakers package them will determine how Jindal comes down on the issue. That is, the governor is neither opening the door for fees, nor is he shutting down related talks.
”We will review any fee increase proposal to determine if they are truly fees to pay for services rendered and not taxes by a different name,” said Jindal spokesperson Shannon Bates Dirmann.
This could be a very small — maybe tiny — opening for state departments and agencies that are facing at least 15 percent reductions across the board next fiscal year.
The latest multi-year revenue forecast has many thinking long term. The 2015-16 fiscal year will face a $1.6 billion shortfall, at the very least, with the following three fiscal years seeing budget shortfalls ranging between $1.4 billion and $1.8 billion each, based on no changes in the economy and incoming revenue streams.
Back to closed primaries?
Converting Louisiana back to a closed primary election system has been an issue that has been on and off the political radar over the past year. But a group of high-ranking Republicans are hoping to keep it on and are quietly touring the state to build support.
Sources tell LaPolitics that the state’s Republican National Committeeman Ross Little is working with other members of the GOP central committee to gauge support of lawmakers and donors. Meetings are actively taking place, guided by a supportive resolution from the central committee.
While there’s a chance the issue could surface in legislation during the spring session, the only consensus among those involved so far is that the conversion shouldn’t happen until after 2016.
Whether state and federal races should both be included is still a point of contention, as is what to do with independent voters.
The effort could face opposition from Secretary of State Tom Schedler, who said in an earlier interview, “There’s a divided sea on that particular issue. I personally like the open primary system. I think it works well for Louisiana.”
He added that the temporary switch back to closed primaries in 2010 was confusing for voters.
Still, there’s an undeniable appeal for Louisiana Republicans. Reverting back to closed primaries would certainly force more white voters to the GOP side. Currently, most have no incentive to change their party registration, even if they’re voting Republican.
There’s definitely an existing trend to build on, with 225,000 white Democrats defecting over the past 10 years.
BESE election PAC may return
With eight seats on the fall ballot for the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education and a pro-reform majority to protect, it looks like the group that helped elect the board in 2011 will be back at it this fall.
The Alliance for Better Classrooms, headed up by Baton Rouge businessman Lane Grigsby, is putting the band back together. Playing point on the ground will be Dan Juneau, the former president of the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry.
It’s still unknown if the group will use its old political action committee, or PAC, but it’s definitely on the table.
“We want to protect our gains in education,” Grigsby said. “We were very involved in the last cycle, which led to the super majority and the appointment of John White as superintendent. We anticipate that this fall those same elected members will face some good opposition from people with hidden agendas.”
Pro-Dardenne super PAC emerges
The Fund for Louisiana’s Future, a super PAC created to back the gubernatorial campaign of U.S. Sen. David Vitter, is no longer the lone wolf in the Bayou State.
Another super PAC, called “Now or Never — Louisiana PAC,” has been created to support Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne to the tune of no-limit contributions. It was registered on the state level in October by individuals affiliated with Axiom Strategies, which has offices in Kansas City and Washington.
The pro-Dardenne super PAC is headed by Axiom’s Travis Smith, a former McCain-Palin staffer and former chief of staff to U.S. Rep. Kevin Yoder of Kansas.
“There’s a difference between the candidates in this race,” Smith told LaPolitics, “and we plan to actively demonstrate the differences to voters.”
There’s no word yet on when the Now or Never PAC will file its first report, or whether it has any major pledges or donations. But the firm behind the super PAC is an up and comer. Principal partner Jeff Roe was recently hired to work on the political organization of Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas. Roe’s bio claims credit for the election of 31 congressmen and four U.S. senators.
It could be an early indication that Dardenne’s supporters plan to try to compete for national money against Vitter’s team — the super PACs are prohibited from coordinating with the campaigns.
There have also been rumblings in recent months of a bipartisan, anti-Vitter super PAC, but sources with knowledge of the effort contend the difficulty of attracting national money for this race against a sitting senator has been one of the hurdles.
They Said It
“It’s a bunch of crap is all it is.”
— Presidential candidate Ben Carson speaking about political correctness at the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry’s annual meeting last week
For more Louisiana political news, visit www.LaPolitics.com or follow Jeremy Alford on Twitter @LaPoliticsNow.