Scalise vs. Stelly
Lake Charles State Rep. Vic Stelly has been touring the state promoting the passage of constitutional amendment No. 2, also known as the Stelly Plan, ever since it passed the Louisiana Legislature. Stelly has spoken to more than 130 groups and organizations about his plan. Opposing Stelly at many of the debates and forums across the state has been Jefferson State Rep. Steve Scalise. Both Stelly and Scalise are Republicans; however, they differ greatly in respect to this important measure.
If passed on Tuesday, the Stelly Plan would remove the state sales tax on food and utilities and increase income taxes. The idea of the plan is to provide tax relief for lower income residents who are particularly hurt by sales taxes and to provide the state a more stable and progressive source of revenue, namely income taxes. Scalise believes, however, that this plan would increase taxes on all Louisiana taxpayers making more than $35,000 per year. "These are the people making the decision to stay in Louisiana or go somewhere else," Scalise says, "and this doesn't help them make the decision to stay in Louisiana."
Stelly and other advocates call the plan a fiscal reform measure, but Scalise disagrees, noting that the plan will generate more than $100 million in additional revenue for the state in the first five years of implementation. "Any fiscal reform plan should include reductions in the size of government and not an increase in the size of government," Scalise says. The plan raises revenue by removing the ability of taxpayers to make deductions on their state taxes for home mortgages or charitable contributions. Scalise believes that this change will be especially harmful for first-time homebuyers and act as another disincentive to buying a home in Louisiana.
Sneed on Term Limits
On Tuesday, four charter amendments will be on the ballot in Jefferson Parish. Amendments No. 2 and No. 4 are the most controversial and have received organized opposition, headed by Metairie State Rep. Jennifer Sneed.
Amendment No. 2 would change the composition of the Parish Council to include 5 district members and 2 at-large members, with one of the at-large members elected by the Council to serve as chairman. Amendment No. 4 would allow an incumbent member to waive the two-term limit by garnering the signatures of 20 percent of the voters in his or her district.
To oppose these amendments, Sneed's group has placed more than 500 yard signs in the parish, sent mailings to parish residents and developed a Web site. In a letter to Jefferson Parish residents, Sneed issues this warning: "The importance and power of your vote is in danger! On Election Day, November 5, 2002, we must vote to stop an effort by some politicians to take the government of Jefferson Parish back to the politics of the past." Sneed does not name the politicians in favor of the charter changes, but incumbent Nick Giambelluca has expressed support for these amendments. Sneed admits to being interested in running for Giambelluca's council seat, regardless of whether Giambelluca is allowed to run for re-election or not.
Running for Governor?
Even though the Senate race is not yet over, many political observers are already looking ahead to 2003. Of course, the major race next year will be the election of a new governor. Mike Foster must step down after two terms in office.
Already, Claude Leach of Lake Charles, a former Democratic state representative, has begun airing slick television commercials produced by media consultant Roy Fletcher. Leach is said to be able to spend at least $10 million in his quest for the top position in the state; if Leach spends that type of money, he may outspend his major opponents by a margin of 3 to 1. Other potential Democratic candidates for governor include Lt. Governor Kathleen Blanco, Attorney General Richard Ieyoub, State Treasurer John Kennedy and former State Senate President Randy Ewing.
On the Republican side, the race is wide open. Former Speaker of the Louisiana House of Representatives Hunt Downer of Houma is making plans to run. In addition, three metropolitan New Orleans Republicans may join the race. Former Gov. Dave Treen is telling friends and supporters that he will run. State Sen. Ken Hollis of Metairie has already assembled his campaign team and has begun the process of holding fundraisers and making speeches around the state; Hollis billboards have already begun appearing on roadways across the state. In the latest development, key advisers of Public Service Commissioner Jay Blossman are encouraging the newly elected official to consider the race as well. Blossman would not have to give up his current seat and has established significant name recognition during the last year in his reelection campaign and his aborted run for the U.S. Senate.