State Lawmakers Try and Reign in National Campaign Spending whil - FOX 8 WVUE New Orleans News, Weather, Sports, Social

State Lawmakers Try and Reign in National Campaign Spending while Approving New Budget

New push for higher cigarette tax New push for higher cigarette tax
BATON ROUGE, LA (WVUE) -

With the state facing a $1.6 billion budget hole, lawmakers are making it clear, nothing is off the table.

The senate today approved it's version of the state's $24.5 billion dollar budget.

It took steps to restrict how much state police spend on protecting the governor while he travels to boost his presidential chances.

"We all pay for our campaign expenditures with our own accounts, why can't that happen to the executive branch," said state senator Karen Carter Peterson, the head of the state's democratic party. She's taking on the cost of state police being used to escort Governor Bobby Jindal on out of state trips that she says are for presidential campaigning.

"We just know in this instance, between now and January 2016, there will be cost that we have to incur, we just don't have that money, and two-and-half million is a significant amount that can go to what we need," Peterson (D-New Orleans) said.

Peterson called for Governor Jindal's office to reimburse state police for the security costs, but there were some objections.

"There's an extraordinary amount of anger and frustration," said State Treasurer John Kennedy.

Governor's office spokeswoman Shannon Dirman told Fox 8 that "even in this age of highly partisan politics, it¹s shocking that the Chair of the democratic party wants to leave a republican governor unprotected." 

Dirman went on to say “we leave security decisions up to state police, but it is important to note that the budget process is still ongoing.”

"I agree we shouldn't use public money for campaigning, but when you put that number in there, that you just legitimized a way to use state troopers in a campaign, and we shouldn't do that," said State Senator Robert Adley (D-Benton).

Peterson tabled her measure to fine tune the wording, but in the end state lawmakers voted 29-to-5 to prohibit state police from spending it's budget money for "traveling with the governor for campaign purposes."

The current budget is balanced on an increase in the cigarette tax, from 68 cents a pack, to a dollar and eight cents a pack.

It also calls for an increase in the vehicle title fee from $18, to $68.50.

The senate has also approved a limit on Louisiana's film tax credit program, capping it at $180 million.

But it remains to be seen if any of the new taxes will face a veto from the governor, who has taken a "no taxes" pledge.

Some conservative republicans challenge the head of a Washington advocacy group, and a pledge that Governor Jindal made, to adhere to his 'no new taxes' policy.

"What the amendment would do is take Grover Norquist out of the business of budgeting," Peterson said.

Senator Peterson's request for an amendment failed today, but other lawmakers, many of them conservative republicans, sent a letter to Norquist asking him to "rethink" his approach to the budget and the 'no tax' pledge.

They say it would create a dangerous precedent by setting up a system of "fictional" tax credits.

There is no response from Norquist so far.

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