BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — A top official in the Jindal administration was notified shortly after the Louisiana revenue department issued a controversial ruling that expanded an alternative fuel vehicle tax credit, a ruling that was later rescinded by the governor as complaints raged that it could devastate the state budget.
A spokesman for Gov. Bobby Jindal has said the governor didn't know of the tax credit expansion until mid-June. But a review of internal Department of Revenue e-mails by The Associated Press shows Jindal adviser Scott Angelle was told by one of his employees about the rule governing the alternative fuel tax credit — which greatly expanded the list of eligible vehicles — on May 1, the day after it was issued by the agency.
The e-mails, provided in response to a public records request, show that the true cost of the credit expansion is not yet known and imply that then-Revenue Secretary Cynthia Bridges may have been pushed out of her job because of the contentious issue.
Jindal scrapped the rule June 14. Bridges abruptly resigned the next day with no explanation.
An e-mail by interim Revenue Secretary Jane Smith suggests Bridges' leaving was tied to the vehicle tax credit and claims Bridges didn't notify the governor and his staff about the rule.
"I am so sad for Cynthia. I left her a message. I had no idea that the governor and staff had not been informed. I can't figure that out," Smith wrote to Carl Reilly, a division director in the revenue department, in a series of back-and-forth e-mails June 15 and 16 about the alternative fuel tax credit.
Angelle, the governor's natural resources secretary and chief legislative lobbyist, was on a May 1 e-mail list with three others, including an official with General Motors and a lobbyist at the Louisiana Capitol, giving them the link to the regulations governing the Alternative Fuel Tax Credit.
"I am passing this information along since I'm aware of your keen interest in the matter," Isaac Jackson, Angelle's general counsel at the natural resources department, wrote in the e-mail, which was then forwarded to a revenue department employee.
In a statement issued through a spokesman, Angelle said he doesn't remember receiving or reading the e-mail.
"I wasn't aware of any previous correspondence. I first became aware of the emergency rule on June 14 when notified by a legislator," he said.
The revenue department declaration expanded the list of qualifying vehicles for the tax credit. Lawmakers who learned of the credit expansion worried it could become a budget-buster, costing the cash-strapped state millions of dollars more than projected for the tax break passed in 2009.
Jindal's office said the rule was rescinded because the law governing issuance of an emergency rule was not followed.
A June 14 e-mail from Angelle also talks of the legislative worries about the financial impacts of the expanded list of vehicles and asks for further details, referring to a conversation he had with House Appropriations Chairman Jim Fannin.