Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, who is weighing a run for president next year, must first reach agreement with members of the legislature on a plan to close a $1.6 billion budget deficit.
It's proving to be a difficult task, with Democrats and Republicans complaining that Jindal refuses to accept tax increases to balance the budget. And increasingly, they have sought to portray the governor as too beholden to Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform (ATR), to agree to the tax hikes they claim are necessary in Louisiana.
"Some Louisiana Republicans have a question for Gov. Bobby Jindal," Politico reported this week.
"Who runs the state's tax policy – the governor or Grover Norquist?"
The administration recently consulted ATR — which has persuaded Jindal and the overwhelming majority of elected Republicans to oppose tax increases —
to see whether a deficit-reduction proposal by the governor would be scored as a tax increase and therefore be considered a violation of his pledge not to increase taxes.
This drew an angry response from some Republican lawmakers.
"We shouldn't have a Washington group dictating how we solve our $1.6 billion budget problem," said GOP state Rep. Tim Burns, who was at a meeting where aides to the governor consulted with ATR.
Burns said it is "very disconcerting" that the governor is "going to threaten to veto anything we do that ATR doesn't like."
Jindal spoke in Washington on Monday at the center-right American Action Forum, where he dodged a question on ATR's role in budget deliberations but said: "I am against tax increases, period."
Jindal said there is a huge difference between tax increases, on one hand, and refundable tax credits that exceed a taxpayer's tax liability on the other, which he referred to as "corporate welfare."
Aides to Jindal said their boss reached out to Norquist's group because he "takes his pledge to the people of Louisiana not to raise taxes seriously."
ATR gave its blessing to a number of proposals by the governor that have been hotly debated by elected Republican officials in Louisiana, including a plan to raise $526 million by ending refundable tax credits for things like milk producers, solar energy, and research.
In other words, if a company received a larger tax credit than it owed in state taxes, it would no longer be permitted to receive a tax refund.
GOP lawmakers complained that at a Baton Rouge retreat with members of the administration a little over a month ago, Louisiana Department of Revenue officials drew a "line in the sand" on tax increases, Politico reported.
They "plainly stated, in no uncertain terms, that the administration won't agree with any proposal which doesn't get the seal of approval from ATR and the governor will veto any proposals that don't have the ATR's approval," state GOP Rep. Jay Morris wrote in a March 8 e-mail to constituents.
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