Four major candidates have announced their intentions to seek the office that Gov. Bobby Jindal will leave, amid great budgetary disarray, in January 2017. One of the candidates at the first forum was asked about state finances.
Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne politely but firmly called “misguided” the current governor’s position on tax credits and exemptions that have ballooned under Jindal. The governor had called any pulling back of the tax credits or exemptions a tax increase, and promised a veto — whether the tax credit or exemption is wise or not.
Jindal’s view is misguided but perhaps it is changing under the pressure of near-collapse of the state budget process.
The administration is now floating a trial balloon or two after Jindal’s recent meetings with some legislators. Adjustment of tax credits is a way to raise revenues, hinted Commissioner of Administration Kristy Nichols, but she repeated the requirement that any ideas from the governor’s office will be “revenue neutral” — bringing in no more net tax revenue.
Legislators, among others, might find that a trial balloon without any air in it. Jindal’s budget plans would gut higher education and many other state services. Embarrassingly, we have a State Library that is open two days a week — the kind of irresponsible “fiscal responsibility” we’ve seen for the past five years.
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Tax credits, exemptions and other breaks for business have mushroomed over the past decade. A handful of the giveaway programs examined by The Advocate in a recent series found that their cost had shot up from just over $200 million to $1.1 billion during the past decade.
Some of the ideas being considered, if the trial balloons are to be believed, include new restrictions on credits when taxpayers have no net tax liability, and in fact get checks from the Treasury for the balance. For movie producers, oil well drillers and others, such “refundable” credits are a large state subsidy, paid for by average citizens’ taxes. It’s a racket and should be cut back.
It’s too early to say whether Jindal’s notions of “revenue neutral” will hold sway with legislators, who seem to have more grasp of the cost of cutbacks than the governor. It’s too early to endorse anything, as the governor’s discussions are more opaque than usual.
But if there’s a possibility of getting the budget out of the ditch, we’ll be as happy as anybody if the governor’s misguided notions are corrected a bit in this year’s Legislature.