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- What happened to fiscal conservatism?
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|What happened to fiscal conservatism?|
When Gov. Bobby Jindal was a candidate for the office he holds today he often stated money collected by the government, ultimately, belonged to the people.
If Jindal truly believes in what he said on the campaign trail, he would publicly declare his support for and openly lobby for the approval of legislation that could direct rebates or tax credits to Louisiana taxpayers.
At the heart of the issue are two pieces of legislation under consideration in the regular legislative session. The measures would give the Legislature the authority to grant rebates or tax credits to state taxpayers when lawmakers have the pleasure of deciding what to do with a budget surplus.
The bills are identical in that they are proposed constitutional amendments, meaning the voters would have to approve either one of the bills, or a combination of the two, for the rebate/tax credit proposal to become law.
Currently, the state constitution dictates the Legislature must spend surplus funds, or non-recurring revenues, on one-time expenditures. Those expenditures include items such as highway construction projects, debt reduction payments, deposits to the state's "rainy day" fund and the like.
In other words, the Legislature does not have the authority to give the people one penny of any budget surplus the state possesses. That's why a constitutional amendment is needed to change it.
One bill dealing with the rebate/tax credit issue—Senate Bill 207—is sponsored by Sen. Mike Walsworth of West Monroe. The other bill dealing with the same topic—Senate Bill 328—is sponsored by Sen. Nick Gautreaux of Abbeville and a host of other lawmakers, including Sen. Neil Riser of Columbia.
The Senate Committee on Finance approved the measures on Monday. They're on their way to the full Senate for consideration. Most likely, though, the proposals will become one bill at some point in the legislative process if the bills survive the legislative process altogether.
That raises a question.
Why would there be any opposition to giving the Legislature the authority to give the taxpayers of Louisiana excess revenues the state treasury has at its disposal?
Moreover, why would there be any opposition to giving the voters a say on whether they would like to grant the Legislature the authority in question?
Those are questions the governor and his administration should answer since it is the governor and members of his administration who have been mum on the idea of granting rebates or tax credits to the people. Moreover, they've been meddling in the matter.
During debate on Monday in the Senate Finance Committee, Walsworth attempted to amend his own bill to become affective Jan. 1, 2012. He said he moved in that direction to prevent rebates or tax credits from becoming a political issue in the 2011 legislative and statewide elections. Walsworth also wanted to delay the affective date to give the Jindal administration time to adjust on the budgetary front in light of the possibility the Legislature would use surplus funds to grant rebates or tax credits.
Later, Walsworth said he was asked by someone with the Jindal administration to delay the affective date of the proposed legislation. He agreed to float the idea, which, of course, was rejected.
All of that horse jockeying by the Jindal administration to slow down the rebate/tax credit proposals raises the question again.
Or what's wrong with giving the Legislature the authority to use a budget surplus to give the people money that belongs to them in the first place?
It could be the administration has grand plans to spend a boat load of money on a host of very visible capital outlay projects around the state in the run up to a re-election campaign that's just three years down the road.
Remember, the state treasury is flush with money these days, including some $1 billion state lawmakers have at their disposal in the current Regular Session. Meanwhile, it has been suggested the state can expect robust tax collections over the next several years thanks to a red-hot oil and gas industry, which, as we all know, pumps big-time money into the state's coffers.
Yet, instead of paying lip service to fiscal conservatism, Jindal should embrace any proposal that gives the Legislature the green light to return money to its rightful owner.
That would be the people.