Editorial round-up

Recent editorials from Louisiana newspapers:The Times-Picayune, New Orleans, April 1, on:
Administration’s energy plan
President Barack Obama will find no disagreement in our region with his stated goal to cut our nation’s oil imports by a third over the next decade and replace it with U.S. energy sources, including more domestic oil.

But thousands of people across the Gulf Coast whose livelihoods depend on domestic oil production want to see more decisive action from this administration to back up the president’s words.

That means working with the industry to speed up the resumption of safe drilling in the Gulf, which the administration halted for almost a year with its blanket moratorium and slowness to issue new drilling permits.

The president rejected criticism that this disruption is responsible for the current spike in gas prices, noting that oil production levels have remained high. But the disruption in exploration and drilling could have serious consequences over the next few years, as currently producing wells run out and not enough new wells come on line.

But the administration has yet to announce a sale of new leases in the Gulf. If no sale is held in 2011, it would be the first year without one since the mid-1960s.

Administration officials have told industry representatives that the government may need more time to complete environmental assessments before a sale. But those evaluations should have continued over the past few months. In the end, it’s fantasy to talk about reducing oil imports and increasing domestic production without increasing exploration in the Gulf …

Oil is hardly the only controversial energy source. As the president said, Japan’s nuclear disaster has raised questions about that source of energy – as it should.

Regulators and the domestic nuclear industry must make sure that they are prepared to respond to a disaster and that strict safety standards are enforced. …

Obama acknowledged that every president in the past 40 years has made the same promise to wean us from foreign oil, “but that promise has so far gone unmet.” He’s uniquely positioned to do something about it, though, by more diligently moving his administration to resume safe oil exploration and drilling in the Gulf and to expand production in our region in the future.

Online: http://nola.com

The Advocate, Baton Rouge, April 4, on:
Raising state’s “sin taxes”

If – or, more likely, when – legislators face some seriously damaging budget cuts this year, they’ll confront a couple of obstacles to raising more revenue. One is the threat of Gov. Bobby Jindal’s veto, but that might not be the obstacle that many think it is.

In our Legislature, a two-thirds vote is required to levy a new tax or raise an existing one. But if a tax bill is vetoed, the Legislature can pass it over the governor’s veto by the same two-thirds vote.
And when it comes to public opinion, there appears to be a whole category of taxes that the people would be supportive of raising: sin taxes.

Taxes on gambling, smoking and drinking are the traditional “sin” taxes. Well, there is Nevada, where prostitution can be taxed, but obviously that’s an outlier.

In Louisiana, we tax gambling pretty heavily already, so that really leaves smoking and drinking on the table.

In both cases, powerful lobbyist forces oppose raising these taxes, well under national averages.

But a new poll from Louisiana State University’s Public Policy Research Lab shows heavy majorities in favor of raising taxes on smoking and drinking to mitigate the impact of budget cuts.

The poll found 68 percent for increasing the taxes on tobacco, 71 percent for higher alcoholic beverage taxes and 77 percent for more gambling taxes.

Jindal consistently has said he opposes tax hikes of any kind, including tobacco tax increases.

We think it’s a pretty good bet that some modest adjustments in these taxes might well be better than further cuts to state institutions and services.

But any such bill has to face the hurdle of two two-thirds votes in the House and Senate.
That’s an obstacle, but not necessarily an insuperable one.

Online: www.2theadvocate.com