Lanny Keller: Louisiana House’s ‘snowflake’ right-wing caucus brought so-called retribution on itself
A political, not a meteorological, miracle has brought snowflakes in the State Capitol in June.
Not literally, obviously, but “snowflakes” is an apt description of the meltingly sensitive souls of the House’s right-wing caucus.
Having banded together to block the first gasoline tax increase in 28 years, despite the evidence that it is desperately needed, despite obvious lies and distortions thrown around about the bill by their followers in and out of government, the snowflakes now fear retribution from the highway department. Dear God, they whined to Gov. John Bel Edwards, they feel threatened by Shawn Wilson, the career bureaucrat at the state Department of Transportation and Development.
Legislators reacted badly to the truth: Wilson reported in a tweet that “two legislators opposing the gas tax already made requests for road maintenance, the day the bill was pulled. No is the easy answer.”
“This is a very inappropriate statement made by the DOTD secretary embodying what is wrong with politics,” the anti-tax zealots said in a letter to the governor.
“In the eyes of many members, it is being viewed as utilizing tax dollars as retribution for a vote,” according to the letter.
What a horror.
The snowflakes thus added whining to their blatant hypocrisy. Saying “no” to taxes, is what Wilson described as the easy answer, for legislators.
If members of the Legislature want to find threats of retribution, they don’t have to invent tortured interpretations of Twitter posts. A lot of business organizations backed the gas tax increase, and they have political action committees and employees who give to campaigns.
Business and civic leaders across the state — not just the road-building companies but many others — strongly backed the gasoline tax bill pushed by a Republican lawmaker, Steve Carter of Baton Rouge. In sheer dollar value of needed projects, the Baton Rouge area is most hurt by the unwillingness of legislators to ante up for highways, bridges and other infrastructure. But other areas of the state are not far behind, so One Acadiana and Greater New Orleans Inc. led business organizations in their region in the fight for a higher level of investment.
Even the GOP-oriented Louisiana Association of Business and Industry, almost always totally opposed to anything with Edwards’ name on it, did not oppose the gas tax increase.
“In discussions with legislators, not a single one disagreed with the fact that the problems in Louisiana’s transportation infrastructure system are tremendous,” said Adam Knapp, president of the Baton Rouge Area Chamber. “Unfortunately, not enough of them were willing to demonstrate leadership on a solution. The consequence of that lack of leadership will be felt in fewer jobs created for their constituents and less economic growth for our state.”
BRAC has a PAC, too, and endorses legislators. The snowflakes perhaps should be more concerned about that. “Those legislators who actively worked to pass the bill will not be forgotten — nor will those who stood in its way or worked to defeat it,” Knapp said.
Legislators can take that as a threat, or a promise.
For the record, Wilson said he wasn’t threatening anybody, but pointing out that there isn’t going to be money to fulfill requests for new projects, from anybody, as the gas tax continues to dwindle in buying power.
Odds are that if the governor was named Edwin W. Edwards, he’d make an example out of a few legislators’ highway projects, pour encourager les autres. In today’s politics, not so likely.
But this Gov. Edwards ought to give Wilson a medal, for telling it like it is — even if the wimps are trembling for their share of a pie they’ve actively worked to make smaller.