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|When will GOP lawmakers lead?|
About one week before the Feb. 19 special election to name a state senator in District 26 in Acadiana, an advisor to Republican Rep. Jonathan Perry called a seasoned political consultant in Baton Rouge to discuss Perry's chances of beating Democratic businessman Nathan Granger.
At that point in the campaign to pick outgoing-Sen. Nick Gautreaux's successor, Perry was trailing Granger by about 7 points according to recent polling. To surmise, the seasoned consultant advised Perry's man that his candidate would lose the election unless "that fella in the White House is introduced to the voters of District 26."
In other words, the time had arrived for Perry to get down and dirty and connect Granger with President Obama and the rest of the Democrat Party establishment in Washington. Whether the connection was accurate was beside the point. The point was Granger was a Democrat like Obama, and as we all know, Obama is about as popular in Louisiana among white voters as a visit to a urologist for a prostate examination. A urologist who has big hands, that is.
Linking Granger with Obama was made easy since Granger's campaign manager worked for Obama's 2008 presidential campaign. A stretch to say the least, but the connection was more than obvious and effective thanks to a hard-hitting direct mail piece sent to voters the week of the election. There it was, a full-color picture of Obama with Granger's name plastered all over the mailing. Throw in some automated telephone calls (robo calls) from U.S. Sen. David Vitter, imploring the voters of District 26 to give Perry the nod, Granger's goose was cooked quicker than you can say Merry Christmas or Happy Hanukkah or whatever.
With Perry's election, Republicans now control 20 of the 39 seats in the state Senate. Across the Rotunda, Republicans control at least 53 of the 105 seats in the House of Representatives. That number will grow to 54 once the dust settles following an April special election to fill a vacancy in the House.
Not since Reconstruction have Republicans controlled both chambers of the Legislature, but the circumstances surrounding the GOP take-over of late are far different than they were following the Civil War. The federal government forcibly put Republicans in charge in the Deep South in the wake of the War of Northern Aggression. The voters did it in modern times in response to overreaching by the legislative and executive branches of the federal government.
Be that as it may, the fact that Republicans now control the Louisiana Legislature could present problems for Republicans, too, including Gov. Bobby Jindal, who, like members of the Legislature, must stand for re-election this fall.
With the state facing a roughly $1.6-billion revenue shortfall versus anticipated expenditures heading into the 2011-2012 fiscal year, it will fall to Republicans in the Legislature to take the lead in cutting the budget to balance it. The alternative would entail embracing revenue enhancers (taxes) to generate more monies to maintain the level of services the people expect government to provide.
Since 2011 is an election year, Republicans would be wise to take a stand now against any proposals that concern raising taxes to fund state government in the new fiscal year, which begins July 1. If Republicans don't stand firm now, they will have opened the door for Democrats to offer a tax increase or increases in the waning days of the regular legislative session this spring when push evolves into shove in adopting a balanced budget for the governor to sign into law.
That also means Republicans need to get on board with Jindal and present a unified front in piecing together a balanced budget for the new fiscal year. The Jindal plan involves selling some state assets to generate one-time monies. Cuts in spending are in the mix, too. The later certainly will resonate with independent and conservative voters who will appreciate the Legislature's efforts to rein in spending in lieu of raising taxes to finance government's presence in our everyday lives.
If Republicans need a reminder about how the general public feels about government spending and taxes, they need to look no further than Perry's election to the Senate last month. Perry prevailed because he turned the voters' attention to Obama and everything Obama represents – more government and higher taxes.
It goes without saying that a majority of the people of Louisiana doesn't want more government, and they don't want higher taxes.
The question is whether a Republican-controlled Legislature will heed the people's wishes.