Gov. Jindal pleased with session results

Louisiana House of Representatives passes budget

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - At the end of what some have called a painful 2015 Legislative Session, the state has a budget that filled a gaping $1.6 billion hole with a combination of new revenue and cuts. However, even as lawmakers debated the budget on the floor, some wondered if the end justified the means.

Governor Bobby Jindal says the budget accomplished his goal of protecting education and health care without raising taxes.

"If you look at the overall package of multiple bills, we're working towards a balanced budget that doesn't raise taxes. So yes as a package of bills this will be balanced budget," said Jindal.

Opponents of Jindal disagreed. Speaking moments after the session ended, the House Democratic Caucus said lawmakers found revenue for the most pressing issues, but said the state's finances are far from stable.

"I am absolutely certain that the next governor is going to be calling a special session in January or February of next year in order to start fixing the structural problems that we didn't fix this time," said Rep. John Bel Edwards, D-Amite.

Edwards is running for governor.

It was also in the House where the controversial SAVE credit almost met its end. The credit was key part of Jindal approving the budget because it offset other taxes. It narrowly passed with 59 votes and left a bad taste in the mouth of many lawmakers. Even Rep. Chris Broadwater, the author of the original SAVE bill, said he was embarrassed by the scenario.

"I will swallow my pride and choose to be embarrassed and know that at the end of the day I chose to fight for higher education and if it gets me beat, it gets me beat," said Broadwater, R-Hammond.

Edwards called the SAVE credit a farce and a fiction.

"Absolutely unnecessary. It is totally fictional. It doesn't do anything to create an offset except in the mind of Grover Norquist and Bobby Jindal," said Edwards.

Political analyst Jim Engster says the use of the SAVE credit to justify tax increases also reveals the extent of Norquist's influence. Norquist is the head of the Americans for Tax Reform, which has enticed many political leaders to make pledges of not raising taxes.

"Now Governor Jindal is portrayed nationally and locally as somewhat of a puppet of Grover Norquist," said Engster. "Whether that resonates when he runs for president we'll have to see."

Jindal responded to the criticism of the SAVE credit by saying many lawmakers told him they were glad to protect higher education.

In the end, Jindal says he got what he wanted: a budget that generates more revenue without technically raising taxes.

Other analyst say this year's session confirms a reoccurring theme in Louisiana politics: that the Governor always wins.

"Louisiana governors really have no more power than governors in any other states, but I think we learned this year that there is a mystic around them that comes out in this legislature and lawmakers just tend to give them whatever they want," said Jeremy Alford of LA Politics Now.

At least one person did walk away from the capital relieved. LSU System President F. King Alexander says the hard work from lawmakers helped save his school from immediate disaster.

"We're pleased with the outcome, but the real winner at the end of the day are our students," said Alexander.

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