"I'm proud of myself, and my family's proud of me, so I don't regret it. Ten years later, for good or bad, my name is still mentioned."
With the regularity of the election cycle, former state Rep. Vic Stelly, R-Lake Charles, is stepping forward in defense of the scrapped state tax plan that bears his name, telling the Associated Press' Melinda Deslatte in a new interview, "I'm proud of myself, and my family's proud of me, so I don't regret it. Ten years later, for good or bad, my name is still mentioned."
Approved by state lawmakers on a bipartisan basis - in fact, Republicans led the charge for the plan in the Legislature at the behest of then Gov. Mike Foster - and backed by voters via a constitutional amendment in 2002, the plan eliminated state sales taxes on groceries and residential utilities, considered onerous to low-income families who spend a disproportionate amount of income on those items, and increased income taxes on middle- and upper-income residents.
But something happened in the intervening years: anti-taxation - any taxation - became orthodoxy in the Republican Party, and as the GOP gained seats and later when Gov. Bobby Jindal won his first term, the income-tax increases in the Stelly plan were rolled back while the sales taxes were never reinstated, creating an annual $600 million budget shortfall that has exacerbated Louisiana's budget crisis.
Opposition to the Stelly Plan became a litmus test for Republican office seekers. During the past election cycle, Lieutenant Gov. Jay Dardenne and Secretary of State Tom Schedler were slammed by their opponents for supporting the plan when they were in the Legislature, although both won their re-election bids on Oct. 22.
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