Wednesday, March 20, 2013

ABOUT THAT TAX PLAN, GOVERNOR JINDAL

Bishop Morris Thompson
Two groups of religious leaders from several faith traditions and denominations gathered at the Louisiana State Capitol on Monday to protest  Governor Bobby Jindal's latest tax plan to eliminate income tax for individuals and businesses and replace the lost revenue with a sales tax.  Neither the governor nor members of his staff met with the representatives of the two groups.  One of the groups published an open letter to the governor explaining the reasons for their objections to the tax plan.  Among the clergy who signed  the letter, I'm pleased to note the names of four Episcopal bishops in Louisiana - two serving bishops and two retired bishops, along with the names of other Episcopal clergy.

Bishop Jacob Owensby
The Rt. Rev'd. Morris K. Thompson, Jr., Bishop, Episcopal Diocese of Louisiana

The Rt. Rev. Jacob W. Owensby, PhD, DD, Bishop, Episcopal Diocese of Western Louisiana

Bishop Charles E. Jenkins, Retired Bishop, Episcopal Diocese of Louisiana

Bishop James B. Brown, Retired Bishop, Episcopal Diocese of Louisiana
 
Bishop Charles Jenkins
The text of the letter:

March 18th, 2013
The Honorable Bobby Jindal, Governor
P. O. Box 94004
Baton Rouge, LA 70804-9004

Dear Governor Jindal,

We, the undersigned members of the Louisiana Clergy, are writing to express our deep concern about the tax proposal you are proposing for the upcoming legislative session.
Bishop James B. Brown
We serve in many different faith traditions, across a broad spectrum of people and communities in this State. As diverse as these traditions may be, we find unity around a few fundamental ethical principles: fairness, a concern for the least of these and an obligation to make our voices heard when matters of justice are at stake.

Our concerns about the proposed tax plan are as follows.

First, we are concerned that Louisiana already has one of the most regressive tax systems in the nation, putting a disproportionately high burden on low and moderate income families. Currently, families earning minimum wage (less than $16,000 per year) pay 10.6% of their income in state and local taxes; the average Louisiana family pays 10.1% of its income in taxes; while the wealthiest Louisiana families (earning over $1 million per year) pay only 4.6% of their income in state and local taxes. That is unacceptable, as a starting point.

Second, we are concerned that the reason we have such an unfair and regressive tax structure is our State's heavy reliance on the sales tax. It is universally recognized that sales taxes create a disproportionate burden on poor and moderate-income families, who spend nearly all they earn. Louisiana already has the 3rd highest sales tax rate in the nation.

Third, we are concerned that your tax plan seeks to increase our state's sales tax rates even further. Any increase in the sales tax would deepen the root causes behind the unfair and regressive nature of our state's tax structure and worsen the burden for poor and moderate income families in our community.

Fourth, we are concerned that your plan proposes to use the increased revenue generated by a heavier burden on poor and moderate income families, not to fund any of the important needs and services our State faces, but to decrease the tax burden for those members of our community who are most blessed with wealth and resources. That, too, is unacceptable.

Fifth, we are concerned that your proposed tax plan will be unsustainable over the long term. Historically, sales have grown much more slowly than personal income, in our State and across the country. Swapping income taxes for sales taxes replaces a faster-growing revenue source with a slower-growing revenue source. We worry that your proposal would be "revenue neutral" in its first year, but "revenue negative" over the longer term. If our State begins to rely even more heavily upon a slower-growing portion of our economy for revenue, we will face deficits and service cuts down the road that make our current ones seem small.

We believe that any proposed law that would increase the tax burden on low- and moderate-income families in order to decrease it for wealthy families must be judged an unjust law.
We believe that any proposed law that would threaten the long-term fiscal soundness of our State must be judged an unwise law.


Therefore, we ask you, in the full spirit of humility and faith, to develop a fundamentally different framework for tax reform.


To that end, we submit the following basic principles as guidelines for the kind of tax reform that would be just and in accord with the ethical frameworks of our faith traditions:


Principle #1) Tax reform should not increase the sales tax rate or take any other steps that make our tax structure more regressive than it is already;


Principle #2) New sources of revenue should be used, not merely to redistribute the tax burden from one group to another, but to invest in high priorities for our state, such as healthcare, education, human services and infrastructure, which have seen significant and far-reaching cuts in recent years; and


Principle #3) Tax reform should not replace a faster-growing revenue source with a slower-growing revenue source, thereby threatening our State's ability to afford important services and investments in the future.


We thank you for your serious consideration of these concerns. We would welcome the opportunity for a delegation of our leadership to meet with you to discuss these matters in more detail. We can be reached at LAfaithcommunity@gmail.com to schedule that meeting.


We pray that you, and all of us, may be blessed with the judgment to move forward in a spirit of wisdom and fairness on such an important matter to the lives and well-being of so many.


Yours faithfully,

--------------------------

View the signatories at the link above.
A second, unaffiliated faith-based group also came out against the governor's tax plan with a rally on the Capitol steps Monday afternoon. Led by the Micah Project, an affiliate of the interfaith community-organizing focused group PICO Louisiana, clergy denounced the proposal as benefiting wealthy Louisianians and corporations at the expense of the poor and middle class.

Referring to administration claims that a sales-tax based system would create a simpler tax code, the Rev. Chuck Andrus of Blessed Sacrement - St. Joan of Arc Catholic Church in New Orleans said the tax system should take into account the needs of families in the state.

"We don't want what's simplest, we want what is just for our families," Andrus said.
I'm betting the governor will not meet with the clergy representatives, but I hope I'm wrong.  Jindal seems to listen to no one who does not already agree with his policies.  He surrounds himself with a closed circle of advisers and his supporters the legislature and hears only what he wants to hear.  

4 comments:

  1. Always glad I'm an Episcopalian!!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'd say I'm proud, David, except that we are to shun pride. ;-)

      Delete
  2. Jindal seems to listen to no one who does not already agree with his policies. He surrounds himself with a closed circle of advisers and his supporters the legislature and hears only what he wants to hear.

    Remember what happened to Rehoboam...

    1 Kings 12, if you need the reference. And be afraid, because the ten tribes didn't have barely-controlled access to Bushmaster XM15s...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Though Jindal claims to be a devout Roman Catholic, he seems not only to be missing the Gospel message, but also the church's teachings on social justice. There is nothing, nada, zero that is in line with the message to care for the poor, the widows and the orphans in Jindal's tax plan.

      Delete

Comment moderation is enabled. Anonymous comments are permitted so long as they are signed. Please use a name, any name, and sign your comment in order that one anonymous commenter may be distinguished from another. Thank you.