How Low Will We Go?

Come on down to the Capitol, folks, where we’re having a giant clearance sale! We need to cut our inventory of programs in nearly every department, so now is the time to take advantage of these deep, deep reductions! Any of these items can be yours for just a fraction of a penny on the dollar! We’ve got some total tools for you today. First up: it’s the newest whole-House vacuum – the Neil Abramson! It doesn’t do the “roomba” – instead it tap-dances. And it sucks up to anybody! It even comes with a cloaking device. When you expect it to be there, it simply vanishes! We’ve also got a deal for you on our all-weather yard blower; the Cameron Henry model. It blows hot, and also cold! And just like any good yard blower, it doesn’t really clean your sidewalk – it just moves the debris somewhere else! We’ve also got a couple of great chainsaw models for you: the Ted James and the Walt Leger. Fire either of them up, and they’ll cut to the heart of the matter right away. And our prices? We know you’re asking: how low will we go? Just look for the specially-marked tags. If it’s tagged HB 9, it will cost one-third of a penny. Though we originally intended to let you choose your own discount, our management team finally settled on a number. Seriously, HB 9, authored by House Ways and Means chairman Neil Abramson (D-New Orleans), was the first bill to move out of his committee Wednesday. It was amended to remove the language linking it to passage of Abramson’s resolution creating a group to study the need for a constitutional convention, which had failed in House and Governmental Affairs earlier in the morning. Then it was further amended by hard-right GOP loyalist Clay Schexnayder (R-Gonzales) to fill in the blank Abramson had left, delineating the percentage of the sales tax penny to be renewed: one-third of a cent. Abramson told the committee he fully recognized renewal at that amount, generating $360-million toward the fiscal cliff, had failed in the last special session. “I also realize we’re in a crisis, and I want to build consensus around a solution,” Abramson said. “But I believe we need to do more than just solving the immediate problem, and this may encourage us to take baby steps toward looking forward to a permanent solution. It’s not necessarily what I personally want, but it has the option to change into different things.” We had several major items marked 50% off and carrying the governor’s seal of approval, but management decided not to bring any of that inventory out onto the floor. Those bills were HB 2 by Rep. Terry Landry (D-New Iberia), HB 3 by Rep. Kenny Havard (R-Jackson), HB 8 by Rep. Walt Leger (D-New Orleans), and HB 11 by Rep Chris Leopold (R-Belle Chasse). Any one of them would have added $507-million to our bottom line, and resolved nearly all the major shortages left in the budget. You will find an item on the floor marked HB 4. This one is a half-penny now, generating $453-million for the bottom line. Its going to be reduced further: to 4/10 of a cent in FY 2022, and then to 3/10 of a cent in FY 2025, finally dropping off the books at the start of FY 2027. Authored by Rep. Stuart Bishop (R-Lafayette) and Sen. Rick Ward (R-Port Allen), it’s less than the governor’s targeted revenue number because it doesn’t extend the so-called “cleaning” of the other sales tax pennies. “Nobody likes this, but it does solve the immediate problem,” Bishop explained. There’s also the item that the majority of our sales staff wants to bring home. It’s tagged HB 11, designed by (authored by) Rep. Paula Davis (R-Baton Rouge). For just $4.40 on every $100 of value, this little beauty will help keep us in business by providing $421-million overall. “I filed this because I believe point-4 is the right number,” Davis said. “One-third didn’t work. One-half didn’t work. This is good because my Republican colleagues don’t like it and the Democrats don’t like it. So maybe it’s the right bill.” It’s apparently the right price tag, as far as the management (i.e., the House GOP leadership) is concerned. It’s co-authored by Speaker Taylor Barras, and the amount of revenue it generates served as Appropriations chairman Cameron Henry’s number for the amounts he plugged into his supplemental spending bill, HB 1, on Wednesday evening. “This removes the priority list in the original budget bill, and appropriates the money from the Davis bill,” Henry told his committee. “I picked the Davis bill, because we needed something to get the conversation going, We need to move along and get something over to the Senate.” Henry’s “solution” doesn’t touch the full funding for health care. It allocates the revenue to fund TOPS at 90%, and higher education at 100%. It restores the 83% cuts made to district attorney and assistant DA salaries, and covers what DCFS needs to keep the SNAP benefits program running. But it also assumes many departments and agencies will ask Civil Service for waivers, so they don’t have to give state workers pay raises. Doors open at 10:30. Don’t miss out on the deals! Let’s make this sale a success so we don’t have to close our doors on July 1. (And don’t worry about our sales staff. They (the Legislature) have a fully-funded budget to pay their salaries and per diem for the next year. Oh, and they have $40-million in reserves, as well. Wonder if anyone is going to mention contributing THAT to help keep the entire state business running?)