Being labeled villain in Legislature 'worth it,' Seabaugh says

BATON ROUGE — When Republican Rep. Alan Seabaugh of Shreveport filibustered in the final minutes of the legislative session Monday, he was not sure whether a last-ditch effort to vote on a revenue-raising bill he deemed disastrous would have succeeded.

But Seabaugh, who is one of about 20 House Republicans who have consistently voted against any tax increase, said in interviews that his maneuver to block the vote “was worth it,” even though it has placed him at the center of controversy over yet another failed legislative session.

Seabaugh said he objected to how the Senate had tacked a half-cent sales tax extension onto a minor bill, saying he felt the measures were “unrelated” and that it was “blatantly unconstitutional” to use that as a vehicle for a tax increase.

He also criticized the growth in state spending on health care under Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards. While Democrats and most of the Republicans in the Senate want to protect health care programs from cuts, Seabaugh said the Legislature should trim the health budget to pay for other programs rather than extending any of the extra penny of sales tax that Edwards persuaded the Legislature to adopt in 2016 to ease a budget crisis.

“The first year Edwards got his way; this year we said no,” Seabaugh said.

“We have the second or third biggest budget in Louisiana history — more money than we have ever had as a state,” he added. “The problem is we are misapplying it.”

Seabaugh said he does not intend to vote for any sales tax extension in a third special session, which will run, Edwards announced Friday, from June 18 through June 27.

And in sticking defiantly to his guns, Seabaugh signaled that it could still be hard to reach a compromise in that session and previewed the kinds of attacks conservatives are likely to launch against Edwards when he runs for re-election next year.

Seabaugh’s decision to hold onto the microphone as the final minutes ticked down Monday night painted him as a villain in the eyes of Democrats and some moderate Republicans, but made him a hero for many conservatives.

Saying a compromise was needed, Rep. Julie Stokes, R-Kenner, rose to seek a re-vote on a Senate bill that would have extended a half-cent of sales tax. She had initially opposed the bill, which had received 64 votes, six short of the 70 needed, a half hour earlier.

But a second vote was prevented by Seabaugh, who went up to comment on the bill and was allowed by House Speaker Taylor Barras to keep talking. “Yes, I’m trying to run the clock out,” Seabaugh said, as Stokes shouted that the failure of the session was “on you, buddy.”

The House also had voted down a Republican bill that would have limited the sales tax extension to one-third of a cent. That meant there was nowhere near enough revenue to fund a budget that the Legislature passed Monday, and the result could be significant cuts in TOPS scholarships and funding for public universities, prisons and many other agencies.

Seabaugh questioned during Monday night’s debate whether it was proper for the Senate to attach a sales tax extension to a bill that mainly defined a term relating to the collection of taxes on Internet purchases.

Seabaugh, who is an attorney, said in the interview that the original bill was “harmless.” He said the Senate had added multiple objects to the bill, though the Louisiana Constitution says each bill can have only one.<