Tax renewal veto expected this week

by Walter Pierce

Some lawmakers who voted for the renewal fear retribution from Gov. Bobby Jindal if they stick with their principles and participate in a veto-override session.

Gov. Bobby Jindal is expected early this week to follow through on his threat to veto a bill that renews a 4-cent state sales tax on cigarettes. Jindal told state lawmakers at the start of the session he considers the renewal to be a new tax. Consequently, a veto, if not overridden by the Legislature, would actually lower the price of cigarettes.

The bill enjoyed overwhelming support in both chambers of the Legislature, passing the House with 70 votes and garnering 29 votes in the Senate. That's enough support to override Jindal's veto.

However, in an effort to head off the embarrassment of becoming only the third governor in modern history - Buddy Roemer and Edwin Edwards had vetos overridden - to be slapped with a veto override, the Jindal administration has been heavily lobbying Republican lawmakers, urging them to toe the party line. The effort will likely pay off as at least a few solons in each chamber have signalled they'll stick with Jindal even after having voted for the renewal. Seventy is the minimum number of votes needed in the House to override, so if even one state rep who voted for the renewal votes with the governor, the override will fail. On the Senate side, 26 votes are need to override a veto, meaning Jindal need only peel four senators away from their earlier votes.

State Sen. Dan Claitor, R-Baton Rouge, told The Advocate he believes some lawmakers, especially in rural districts where the governor's support is vital for securing precious few state-funded public-works projects, are afraid to stick with their votes renewing the tax for fear of risking retribution from Jindal.

"Politics is still a contact sport," Claitor told the Baton Rouge daily.

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