Jindal to embrace stealth tax hike?

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Governor Bobby Jindal is said to have lost his “mojo” this legislative sessions. His plan to repeal the state income tax failed before it got started. His education reforms are on life-support due to successful court challenges to his plans for vouchers and public charter school supports.

Yet, publicly he remains committed, he says to vetoing any tax that comes before him. He opposes the cigarette tax, for example, even though health advocates are begging for it.

We’ll get a chance very soon to learn whether Gov. Bobby Jindal really means it when he calls himself a tax warrior because state lawmakers are racing through the process with little or no public input a new tax on tourists to the beleaguered New Orleans.

Now, understand  — the City of New Orleans is desperately trying to resurrect itself after devastating hurricanes and levee failures in 2005, and the nation’s worst environmental disaster in the Gulf in 2010. Tourism is practically all it has left, and that is daily assaulted with an out-of-control crime problem.

National stories have broken recently with criminals waving guns in jail; sneaking out of jail to go to Bourbon Street…and then most horrendously, a Mother’s Day parade crowd getting showered with bullets by young men who should have been in jail for drug and gun violations. Twenty people were injured, including two children, in that Mother’s Day disaster.

So you think the city’s priorities, and perhaps even the Governor’s, might be on public safety. After all, a recent report by their own consultants admitted 8 out of 10 visitors to New Orleans don’t come back because of the crime problem!

It appears the Governor, the Mayor of New Orleans, and their willing colleagues in the Louisiana Legislature want to move fast to soak every dollar off of every tourist they can before they stop coming because the stealth tax making its way through the Legislature without opposition would tax every hotel guest with a 1.75 percent additional levy…which won’t even be itemized on the bill!

Further, the $12 to 18 million this stealth tax would generate will only go to more tourism advertising…not fighting crime! Imagine! An unaccountable slash fund to pack more young and rowdy pleasure seekers into historic neighborhoods like the French Quarter, with no accountability or oversight on how those monies are spent! It’s a dream come true!

But make no mistake: The hypocrisy spotlight is brightest on the young Governor. It is Jindal who has been traveling to Iowa and other key stops in the 2016 presidential sweepstakes, seeking to sell himself to America as a champion of low taxes and a warrior against government waste.

Earlier this year, he even tried pushing a radical scheme that would have done away with personal income and corporate taxes in Louisiana — presumably with one eye on proving his fiscal bona fides to GOP primary voters everywhere. And yet now there’s a chance that Jindal is going to hike taxes on every resident of Iowa, New Hampshire (and 48 other states, as well as international guests) when they come to enjoy the crown jewel of Jindal’s Louisiana, the capital of great music, food, and architecture.

Say it ain’t so!

Well, at the rate crime in the New Orleans is going, maybe Jindal believes no reporter would be left to write about his folly. After all, two of the 20 people who were injured in the Mother’s Day shoot-out at the parade were journalists! In fact, Mark Hertsgaard authored the major investigation of the BP spill aftermath that was highlighted here on this blog.

Crime is exactly the type of problem that New Orleans needs to start fixing now, before it spends millions more on marketing a city that is mired in crisis. The respected Bureau of Governmental Research issued a last-minute warning (PDF file):

The proponents of the assessment have not demonstrated that marketing tourism is the highest and best use of the city’s tax capacity.

If there is an additional stream of revenue, why not spend those dollars on hiring more police officers or more code officers — the things that will make daily life in New Orleans better and safer not only for tourists but for the people who live there? By signing off on this proposed political slush fund, Gov. Jindal shows the world that he is just another politician.

But we knew that in our hearts, didn’t we?

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

© Smith Stag, LLC 2013 – All Rights Reserved

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Stuart H. Smith is an attorney based in New Orleans fighting major oil companies and other polluters.
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