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AFP, other groups prepare campaigns against tax proposals

The Louisiana Legislature’s three-and-a-half week special session on the budget that starts on Sunday is gearing up to be a high-profile battle over tax hikes — and not just inside the Capitol.

Gov. John Bel Edwards is asking lawmakers to consider a mix of tax proposals and budget cuts when the special session starts Sunday. That’s propelling several groups into campaign mode. For Louisiana residents, that’s likely to translate into more polls and political ads.

Americans for Prosperity, an anti-tax group that released a poll on the proposed tax measures on Thursday, has now launched a website and web campaign that takes aim at proposed tax increases.

“The purpose of our ad is to educate Louisianans on the taxes that their state government is attempting to levy on them,” AFP-Louisiana state director Phillip Joffrion, said in a statement. “We want citizens in our state to know just how expansive and costly these new taxes will be. The bottom line is the citizens of Louisiana oppose these tax increases and simply cannot afford to send more of their hard earned money to Baton Rouge.”

The Louisiana AFP website calculates the estimated tax increases by “gallons of pennies” and estimates that a family of four would pay $867 more a year under Edwards’ proposals.

AFP’s website mirrors several that the group has launched across the country to fight tax proposals. According to AFP, its 30-second video ad will run online, including on newspaper websites across the state. Other groups are reportedly eyeing large scale television ad buys.

Edwards has put forth several tax proposals for balancing the state budget, which is facing at least an $850 million shortfall in the current year and $2 billion shortfall in the budget that begins July 1.

He gave a 10-minute, statewide televised speech Thursday night to try to gin up support for the measures.

The Rundown: Feb. 12, 2016

Louisiana Legislature Bobby Jindal The Advocate

Today in The Rundown: Governor gives grim budget projection; Donald Trump rallies Baton Rouge; TOPS payments suspended; and more.

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Days until the special session: 2
Days until the Louisiana presidential primary: 22
Days until the 2016 regular Louisiana legislative session: 31

The News Continue reading

Ending impasse, AG joins governor on Common Core lawsuit

A dispute between Democratic  Gov. John Bel Edwards and Republican  state Attorney General Jeff Landry ended Thursday when Landry joined Edwards’ bid to drop an anti-Common Core lawsuit.

The legal challenge was filed in 2014  by former Gov. Bobby Jindal, and Edwards said last week he ordered his legal counsel to ask the U. S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals to shelve it.

Landry challenged the governor’s comments and said that, as   attorney general, he would have the final say on whether the lawsuit continued.

However, attorneys for Edwards on Thursday asked for the dismissal and Landry said he would join that request.

“My decision today comes after a thorough in-house examination of the pleadings, the district court judgment and the new directives from Congress,” Landry said in a prepared statement.

Jindal had accused the Obama administration of manipulating $4.3 billion in federal dollars to entice states to adopt Common Core, which the ex-governor opposed.

Last year U. S. District Judge Shelly Dick rejected Jindal’s challenge.

Edwards said earlier that it was clear he has the authority to drop the lawsuit.


Gov. Edwards to critics calling him a ‘liar’ about raising taxes: Get it out of your system, then come back to work

Newly-elected Gov. John Bel Edwards says he’s aware that critics have accused him of flip flopping after saying on the campaign trail that he didn’t plan to raise taxes.

In an interview with reporters and editors from The Advocate on Wednesday, Edwards defended his position, restating that he was not aware that the budget crisis was so dire.

“There are people out there — not many of them but some of them — AX112_790F_9that say, ‘Edwards lied when he was running, he said he wasn’t going to raise taxes during the campaign,'” he said. “Nobody, nobody knew that the problem was going to be over $2 billion next year,” or that the shortfall for this year would grow to exceed $800 million.

Edwards is now proposing a one-cent sales tax hike and a 22-cent increase in the state cigarette tax, among several other proposals for shoring up the budget.

The Revenue Estimating Conference readjusted the projected revenue for the budget that ends June 30,and now the estimated shortfall is about $850 million in the current year and about $2 billion for the budget that begins July 1.

When Edwards was running for office, the shortfall estimates were $400 million for this year and $1 billion for the following year.

“If the facts change, you have to change the solutions too, otherwise you’re being irresponsible,” Edwards said Wednesday. “So, for those people who want to say Edwards lied, I understand. They ought to say it  to get it out of their system, then they ought to come back and work with me.”


Louisiana’s ugly budget outlook grows grimmer; state in ‘its own recession,’ economist says

What if they held a debate and no one was there to see it?

Budget specifics from Louisiana gubernatorial candidates still only broad ideas

UPDATED: John Bel Edwards to give televised update on the state budget Thursday

Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards will give a televised update on the state budget on major television networks across the state Thursday night.

According to the governor’s office, the address will be aired statewide at 6:30 pm on all major network television and radio stations, as well as Louisiana Public Broadcasting. It’s expected to last about 10-12 minutes, according to the governor.

“The challenges facing Louisiana are so severe, and the risk of doing nothing is so big, that it is important for me to outline these problems directly to the people,” Edwards said in a statement. “I promised to be open and transparent with the people of Louisiana and give them the facts, and that’s what I intend to do. There are some real consequences if we do not work together to solve the state’s financial problems and I want to personally communicate them to the citizens of our state.”

The televised speech is rare for the governor to give here. Typically, a formal State of the State takes place at the beginning of the regular legislative session. Edwards, who was sworn into office Jan. 11, has been making the rounds speaking out about the grim budget outlook.

Edwards has called a special legislative session to address the state budget crisis, beginning Sunday. The regular session begins March 14.

He recently launched a webpage to address questions about the budget crisis and take feedback from Louisiana residents.

UPDATE: The Louisiana GOP has asked television stations for time to air an official response to Edwards’ budget speech. Read the letter to LPB and other TV stations here.

Louisiana GOP spokesman Jason Dore said Republicans likely will have state Treasurer John Kennedy give the response. His speech will be provided to any stations that agree to air.

David Vitter, other senators launch probe into Flint water crisis

Louisiana’s senior U.S. Sen. David Vitter is among a trio of senators who have launched a probe into the Environmental Protection Agency’s handling of the water quality crisis in Flint, Michigan.

Vitter, Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) and Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas) sent a letter to the EPA, demanding information about when the agency became aware of the city’s lead-tainted water supply.

“It certainly appears that the EPA did not take action, or at a minimum, alert citizens about the lead contamination,” the senators wrote.


Vitter, a Republican and  a senior member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, has represented Louisiana in the Senate since 2005. He has said he won’t seek re-election this fall.

Vitter, Inhofe and Cornyn are seeking access to internal EPA correspondence about the water crisis, as well as information about briefings that the agency held on it.

Read the letter here (PDF).

Marco Rubio campaign announces Louisiana team

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida has seen a big rise in his campaign for the GOP presidential nomination recently, and now he has unveiled a Louisiana campaign team that includes several state legislators and other influential people in state politics.

Rubio, who was endorsed by former Gov. Bobby Jindal on Friday, held a fundraiser in New Orleans in November.

Here’s who has officially signed onto his team, as revealed exclusively to The Advocate ahead of a formal announcement this week:

  • State Chairman: Sen. Mack “Bodi” White, R-Central.
  • Co-Chair: Christel Slaughter, a well-known Baton Rouge based consultant.
  • Co-Chair: Sen. Mike Walsworth, R-West Monroe.
  • Co-Chair: Sen. Ronnie Johns, R-Lake Charles.
  • Co-Chair: Rep. Steve Carter, R-Baton Rouge.
  • Co-Chair: West Feliciana Parish President Kevin Couhig.
  • Co-Chair: Rob Couhig, a New Orleans-based attorney.
  • Co-Chair: Brian Wagner, a former New Orleans City Council member.
  • Co-Chair: George Fowler, a Cuban-American New Orleans-based lawyer.
  • Co-Chair: Rep. Kirk Talbot, R-River Ridge.
  • State Grassroots Director Lionel Rainey.
  • State Grassroots Director Beverly Haydel.

“Marco Rubio has demonstrated throughout this campaign that he will implement policies that will not just save the American Dream, but expand it,” White said in a statement. “I’m supporting him because I am confident that he will use conservative principles to help improve the lives of Louisianans and Americans across the country.”

Rubio pulled off a narrow third-place finish in the Iowa caucuses, and has been picking up endorsements since. Polls predict he will come in second in New Hampshire on Tuesday. Donald Trump who is predicted to win New Hampshire and came in second in Iowa, will be holding a campaign rally in Baton Rouge on Thursday.

“After looking at all the candidates in this race, it’s clear to me that Marco Rubio is far and away the best to carry our party’s flag in the general election,”  Talbot said in a statement. “Marco has an optimistic vision for America that will inspire voters, and I’m supporting him because I know he can be counted on to protect and expand the American Dream for future generations.”

Campaigns have been increasingly eyeing Louisiana’s March 5 primary. The Rubio campaign, in announcing the Louisiana team, echoed comments Jindal made in his endorsement — that Rubio is a candidate who can unify the Republican base.

“Our campaign is happy to have these strong conservative leaders on board to spread Marco’s positive message of a New American Century to voters across Louisiana,” said Jeremy Adler, regional spokesman for the Rubio campaign. “Voters across the country are recognizing that Marco is the one candidate that can unite the Republican Party and win a general election which is why so many are rallying behind his candidacy.”

Donald Trump to hold campaign rally in Baton Rouge on Thursday

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump will hold a campaign rally at the Baton Rouge River Center this week.

Trump, who leads most national polls on the race for the GOP nomination, has been drawing thousands of people to his rallies, including one recently in Biloxi, Mississippi.

The Baton Rouge event is scheduled for 7 p.m. Thursday. Doors open at 5 p.m. Tickets can be obtained via

This will be Trump’s first major campaign appearance in Louisiana. He recently announced a Louisiana campaign team that includes Public Service Commissioner Eric Skrmetta and former State Rep. Woody Jenkins as his Louisiana chairmen, and Jeff Crouere and Brian Trascher as state co-chairs.

The River Center previously has hosted Trump’s Miss USA pageant. Mired in controversy, Trump skipped last year’s pageant to campaign in Phoenix.

Trump came in at second place in this week’s Iowa caucuses. He’s leading the polls on Tuesday’s New Hampshire primary.

Former Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, who suspended his own presidential run in November, has endorsed U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida.


Louisiana delegation responds to Obama’s oil tax proposal

Members of Louisiana’s Congressional delegation are responding to President Barack Obama’s plan to call for a $10-per-barrel tax hike on oil to fund new transportation upgrades.

Here’s what they have to say about the proposal:  Continue reading

Bobby Jindal not ready to endorse in GOP presidential primary

The Republican presidential race is tightening, but former Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal apparently isn’t ready to endorse a candidate yet.

A source close to Jindal told The Advocate that Jindal definitely won’t endorse before the New Hampshire primary on Tuesday, and it’s unclear when or if he will beyond that.

Jindal, who suspended his own presidential campaign in November, spent $1.4 million on his unsuccessful run for the GOP nomination. An independent group supporting him spent another $4.4 million.

A recent analysis from National Journal found that Jindal among the most frequent travelers to Iowa, which held its caucuses this week. U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz won that state’s Republican contest, followed by Donald Trump and U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio.

Several others who have dropped their campaigns have endorsed other candidates.

Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who bowed out before Jindal, has endorsed Cruz. U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina is backing former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.  Former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania and former New York Gov. George Pataki have come out in support of Rubio.

U.S. Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky reportedly has said he doesn’t plan to endorse in the primary, and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee haven’t endorsed anyone yet.

Jindal, when he left the race, declined to endorse a GOP presidential candidate but said he would support whomever wins before adding that he doesn’t believe that the nominee will be Trump, who he frequently criticized on the campaign trail.

Candidates still left in the running for the GOP presidential nomination include Trump, Cruz, Rubio, Bush, Dr. Ben Carson, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, businesswoman Carly Fiorina, Ohio Gov. Jim Kasich and former Virginia Gov. Jim Gilmore.