Governor’s tax reprieve opens door for dialogue

Above a joint session of the state Legislature on the first day of the fiscal legislative session of 2013, Gov. Bobby Jindal hoisted a white flag toward his right flank.

State legislators from all corners have voiced displeasure to some extent regarding the scrubbing of personal income tax in favor of an elevated sales tax rate, an extension of services covered by sales tax and the elimination of roughly 200 tax credits.

When the national consulting firm Jindal hired to run the numbers of his proposal criticized a key element – the expansion of applicable services – as being potentially damaging to business last week, it effectively aligned the proposal against widespread economic growth. The arrows began striking nearer, and the legislative cavalry had yet to arrive at his beck and call.

So he decided to “park” his proposal. “I realize that some of you think I haven’t been listening,” Jindal told the legislators. “But you’ll be surprised to learn I have been.”

Instead of sitting at the head of the table listening to advisors, Jindal will pick from numerous proposals submitted by lawmakers that will offer phasing out the income tax over years.

Thankfully the state’s taxi laws will remain on the table; as such, we urge lawmakers to ensure that “reform” will not cater exclusively to business while forsaking lower-income families.

Since his reelection, Jindal has seemingly greased the state’s political infrastructure to help zip annual keystone legislation, such as the tax swap, through the lawmaking process. His proposals – ethical, educational and economical – have grabbed the national headlines, earning awareness points from the constituency he has eyed for some time while advancing his conservative agenda.

That Jindal’s wants were not again aggressively shepherded through Baton Rouge, that he was not blindly followed amid concerns about how it would impact each Louisiana resident, including those who need relief the most, can be viewed as a testament that the lawmakers have not abandoned ship at the capitol.

It’s hard to determine if the governor should be given credit for halting a political battle that he likely would have lost, whether his admitted recognition of criticism was a realization of his proposal’s shortfalls or that defeat would carry more embarrassment. At least we’re not being force-fed. Yes, it’s a shame that sentence must be written.

The governor said he’s listening, that he’s willing to accept alternatives to his grand legislation of 2013. Perhaps this attentiveness is due to his approval-rating nosedive last week to sub-President Barack Obama levels – 38 percent.

We can only hope he’s as welcome to extending his flexibility in confronting the state machinery that annually delivers legislators a budget shortfall followed by a shrinking of health-care and education funding.