May 292013

By John Maginnis, 5/28/2013

If you want to promise not to raise taxes, put it on your push cards and on your website, wear a sandwich board and shout it in the public


Given the steep decrease in telephone land lines and the explosion in cell phones, the legislative bill to adjust the tax to pay for telecommunications services for the deaf seemed fair and reasonable. The bill before the House early in the session decreased the 5-cents-per-month tax on land lines to 2 cents and expanded it to cover wireless lines, which are currently untaxed. The penny ante tax swap would restore the Telecommunications for the Deaf Fund, which had fallen by half in recent years, to its 2005 level. But because fractions of cents can’t go on phone bills, the 2-cent levy would result in the deaf fund receiving about a half million dollars extra.

That overage, however, was a problem for the man in charge of tax policy in Louisiana. Grover Norquist would not hear of it. Norquist is the president of Americans for Tax Reform in Washington, D.C., and creator of the pledge signed by many American politicians to oppose all net tax increases. Certainly, he wasn’t following the debate at the time, but staff members for his ally, Gov. Bobby Jindal, sent word to legislators that a vote for House Bill 238 would be scored by ATR as a tax increase and, thus, a violation of the pledge.

The House passed the bill overwhelmingly anyway. Of the 16 representatives who have signed the pledge, six voted for the bill, five were against it and five were absent. (Curiously, four of the five absent voted on the previous bill, but, apparently, urgent business called them from the chamber before the vote on the phone tax. Score that as profiles in courage.)

The next week Jindal, who also has signed Norquist’s pledge, said he would veto the bill in its current form, but that it need not come to that. He offered to the author, Rep. Patrick Williams, D-Shreveport, to replace the money from the tax bill with another revenue source.

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– Thanks to NVRC, Fairfax