Friday, June 02, 2017


We're almost to the end of the legislative session which means it's getting more difficult to ignore the massive amount of nothing that's been done to address the coming budget shortfall or the looming "fiscal cliff" due to hit when a package of stop gap temporary taxes expire.  Legislators entered the session with an array of options suggested by a special task force on tax reform and by the Governor that might have helped pull the state back from the brink.  The session itself has been a long slog of watching each of those proposals fail to get off the ground.

The Republicans in the House have been the main impediment to progress in most cases. This has been plain to see all along. It remains doubtful, however, whether anyone will hold them accountable in any meaningful way.  Here, Tyler Bridges notes some of the blowback this week absorbed by Speaker Taylor Barras including a call from his hometown newspaper for Barras to resign his speakership.
Barras is a good man but a bad speaker. A new speaker and new committee chairmen would deal the House and Capitol a needed new hand.

Answers to Louisiana’s pressing problems will not come from this House as it is presently constituted. That much is proven.

Our tax system will stay broken. Our higher education system will remain imperiled. TOPS will stay on risky fiscal footing. Our roads will remain among the nation’s worst. The fiscal cliff lies straight ahead, and there are no brakes on this legislative bus.

Local lawmakers said before session’s start that voters should be able to vote for a gas tax. They won’t. Our lawmakers said the Taylor Opportunity Program for Students must change to survive. It won’t.
Bridges also highlights an epitaph for the gas tax by Louisiana Association of General Contractor chair Ken Naquin. 
“You must appreciate the toxic mix that is the House of Representatives as it exists today and the total lack of leadership in the House,” Naquin wrote Wednesday in an email to his members.

Naquin added that while Barras holds the speaker’s gavel, two other Republicans, state Rep. Lance Harris of Alexandria and state Rep. Cameron Henry of Metairie, wield so much power that “there are in reality 3 speakers.” Harris heads the Republican caucus while Henry chairs the Appropriations Committee.

“The power in the House is Rep. Harris,” Naquin wrote.
 You know what they say about quarterbacks. If you've got three, you really don't have any.  And if the "power in the House" is with one of the backups, then you've got a real problem. 

On the other hand, none of those maxims apply to the Republicans in this case. Despite the seeming discord, there probably aren't political consequences for any of them and that includes Barras.  After the session ends... and after John Bel finally lets them all out of detention... they can go back to their districts and boast that they fought hard to keep from raising taxes.

This won't be exactly true.  In fact, the full effect of the Governor's preferred reforms this year would have been an overall tax cut for 90 percent of Louisiana residents.  Republicans did manage to prevent tax increases on the wealthiest residents and businesses who are their actual constituency anyway. They did this at the great expense of everyone else and left a lingering disaster in their wake. Not that it matters. The Republicans know full well that voters will hold the Governor accountable for the mess in 2019 which only adds to the incentive to stay the course. Everything is right on schedule.  Why would they dump their leadership now? 

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