It’s not really breaking news at this point that Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal is a hypocrite. Not just in the environmental laws that his agencies consistently fail to enforce, but in his other policies like taxpayer funding of schools that teach religious creationism or slashing spending on children, Jindal talks up the 21st Century even as he tries to push Louisiana back into the 19th Century. But here’s the thing: He’s also a coward.
Even since he was re-elected a few years ago, Jindal has travelled around the country — even to key presidential primary states like Iowa — seeking to boost his political profile. I don’t know if he seriously thinks he can become president or if he’s just angling to run for the U.S. Senate next year. But his message of frugality and fiscal responsibility is proclaimed loudly to business groups and to GOP luncheons.
But when he increases your taxes, Gov. Jindal’s voice is barely a whisper. That’s exactly what he did on Friday night — raised taxes on anyone who checks into a hotel to visit the New Orleans area. Of course, he raised taxes on the start of a hot summer weekend, when newspaper readership and TV viewership is at its absolute lowest. He could have come out and admitted to the public that he’d signed a tax hike — despite his much-publicized vow to Grover Norquist and his Americans for Tax Reform that he would never increase levies, ever — and explained why. But instead he buried the news that was signing SB 242 in a completely non-descript press release. Because he doesn’t want voters to know.
If you’ve been reading this blog for the last couple of months, you know all about SB 242. The bill imposes a 1.75 percent stealth tax on hotel guests in New Orleans and its immediate suburbs — a tax that the hotel owners are not even required to itemize on guests’ bill. The income will create a $12-to-18-million slush fund that would be controlled by the New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau, which is run by a longtime political associate of Gov. Jindal.
This thing is, nobody in the general public was asking for this. Indeed, a number of grassroots community groups rallied against SB 242, which claims that the money from the tax will be used primarily for tourism marketing. That’s because if there are new dollars coming into New Orleans, neighborhood groups want to see these funds invested in the things that are needed: More cops on the street, and better enforcement of the codes preventing noise pollution and other rowdyism. Instead, the tourism dollars will be used to lure a younger, hard-drinking clientele that, inexplicably, seems to be a cornerstone of New Orleans’ “comeback” strategy.
Jindal had a chance to show some real fiscal responsibility, to stand up for everyday people and against cronyism — but in the dead quiet of a Friday afternoon, he went the other way with it. Don’t expect to read about this in a sequel to Profiles in Courage. But if Jindal thinks he can make this thing go away with a silent stroke of a pen, he’s got another thing coming. For one thing, serious questions remain about whether this action — a tax bill funding an unaccountable and unelected entity like the NOCVB — is actually constitutional.
But here’s the other thing: Bad government is bad politics. Whether Bobby Jindal runs for president or senator or dog catcher in his next election, there are many of us who will work to make sure that the voters know all about a governor’s betrayal. And his sheer hypocrisy.
For more detailed information about convention center spending and other problems with SB 242, please read: http://www.brylskicompany.com/1/post/2013/05/cvb-ignoredpublic-records-law-spends-millions-of-taxpayer-dollars-on-salaries.html
The SmithStag white paper on the constitutionality of the pending tourism tax (PDF file) is here: http://www.brylskicompany.com/uploads/1/7/4/0/17400267/130528_supplemental_white_paper_tourist_tax.pdf
Check out my May 15 blog post first asking whether Gov. Jindal will endorse this stealth tax hike: http://www.stuarthsmith.com/jindal-to-embrace-stealth-tax-hike/
To read my May 10 post about this bass-ackwards scheme for New Orleans tourism, please read: http://www.stuarthsmith.com/stop-the-bass-ackwards-plan-for-new-orleans-tourism/
Check out the BGR report (PDF file) at http://www.bgr.org/files/reports/BGR-Now_Hotel_5-14-13.pdf
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