Tarver slams special session supporters
5th November 2012 · 0 Comments
By J. Kojo Livingston
In response to Governor Piyush “Bobby” Jindal’s post-session budget cuts, legislators across the state have begun calling for a special session. Officials are divided as to whether a special session would remedy or reverse the governor’s actions.
Shreveport-based Senator Gregory Tarver opposes the call for a special session and accuses proponents of lying to the people. “I think Bobby Jindal has made a lot of mistakes. But we cannot blame the cuts to healthcare on Bobby Jindal this time. We have to put the blame on the federal government this time. The federal government cut us $860 million under Medicaid funds.”
Another problem for Tarver relates to strategy…or lack thereof. “The first thing I asked the people who are calling for a special session is ‘Do you have a plan?’ Well we’ll get a plan when we go down there.’ No that’s not the way you call a special session. You call a special session when you have a program together and you deliver your program to the legislature. I’ve asked four or five times if they have a program and each time they say no we don’t have a program,” said Tarver.
Tarver believes an unproductive special session could make things worse. “I don’t want to spend money going down there to get nothing accomplished. If you get nothing accomplished you look really bad. And let’s be honest, right now the people are blaming Bobby Jindal for everything. If we go down there in special session they’ll blame us. And we are not to blame.”
Tarver has a rather unpopular solution to the entire budget crisis. “You can sum up all the special by money. Money is required to operate any function of government. We do not have the revenue and we cannot raise the revenues. These people who are talking about special session will not vote for taxes. I’m willing to vote for some taxes to do some good for the healthcare system and the university systems in this state.”
According to Sen. Tarver, his colleagues calling for a special session are not being honest with the people. “They are telling people all kinds of lies, ‘If we go to special session we can replace the money for health care.’ If we go to special money we cannot replace money for health care because we don’t have it. We don’t have $860 million. We don’t have $100 million. So the people calling a special session are just sensationalizing everything, giving false information, no information and half-truths.”
Still Tarver says he could get on board, under one condition, “If they would agree to raise taxes, I would go to a special session to raise taxes…if you have 72 votes.”
Why 72 votes?
“Because the governor is going to veto it and once the governor vetoes it we’re going to have to go back in and override his veto. It takes 72 votes to do that. If we go in with 72 votes in the house and 27 votes in the Senate. You have to have 2/3rds in both houses. The problem is that you can’t get these same people who want to go into special session to vote for taxes.”
What kinds of taxes would the Senator be willing to support? “Cigarette taxes, a gaming tax. A car rental tax. We had an opportunity and I voted to raise taxes on car rentals at the airport and switch them to the parish, but the governor vetoed it. We can raise money on “sin tax” like alcohol. Do you realize that we have not raised taxes on alcohol in 40 years? In 40 years! We need to raise taxes and dedicate them to education and healthcare. All the money we raise should be dedicated.”
In stark contrast to the treatment of alcohol, Tarver says, “We have raised taxes on food many more times than we have raised taxes on alcohol. We have not raised taxes on soft drinks in 20 years. We would raise millions of dollars for health care and education with these taxes.”
Some legislators have mentioned the Rainy Day Fund. “You don’t know the law. You can’t go to the rainy day fund in a special session. You have to look at the constitution. When you put yourself in a leadership position and you lie to the people, that’s a greater sin.”
Tarver has another solution that is not likely to get the overwhelming support he would need. “You don’t have a solution unless revenue comes up. And revenue is not coming up until we have around four percent unemployment and housing has to be built. And we have to eliminate the Stelly tax. That’s $1 billion that can be dedicated immediately to health care and education.”
This article originally published in the November 05, 2012 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper.