Louisiana lawmakers send tax bills to House floor


Louisiana House members will have three tax bills to consider when they meet Thursday, after a legislative panel advanced varied ideas toward limiting state budget cuts.

Members of the House Ways and Means Committee moved the measures Wednesday, offering the Republican-led House chamber different options to address a shortfall looming at the end of the month.

“I believe we need multiple instruments,” said Rep. Major Thibaut (D-New Roads). “I think it all boils down to what people are willing to vote for.”

The bills advanced would each extend part of the one-cent sales tax that expires July 1, though the rates differ:

  • House Bill 10, by Rep. Paula Davis (R-Baton Rouge), would enact a 4.4 percent sales tax rate, while eliminating some tax breaks.
  • House Bill 9, by Rep. Neil Abramson (D-New Orleans), would enact a 4.33 percent rate. It resembles an idea backed by some House Republican leaders last month.
  • House Bill 4, by Rep. Stuart Bishop (R-Lafayette), would enact a 4.5 percent rate through 2021. That rate would then fall to 4.4 percent until 2023, then to 4.25 percent until 2025.

“I want to build consensus around a solution, whether it’s my bill or somebody else’s,” said Abramson, who chairs the House’s tax committee. “It’s going to require 70 of us to figure out what package is the right package.”

All tax bills must begin in the 105-member House and require a two-thirds majority to pass through the chamber.

Whether any of the proposals advanced Wednesday will win backing from the full House remains uncertain. Members remain largely split over how much expiring revenue to extend — and whether to renew any of it at all.

“Let’s do something,” said Rep. Terry Landry (D-New Iberia). “Let’s stop the partisan bickering and do right by the people that sent us here.”

The House panel rejected Landry’s bill to renew half of the expiring tax, which aligned with what Gov. John Bel Edwards proposed last month. But on his monthly call-in radio show Wednesday, Edwards voiced optimism that lawmakers would strike some compromise, after failing to broker a tax deal during the first two special sessions of 2018.

“I think there is a much clearer understanding of the need to fix the problem,” the governor said.

Edwards rang in a third special session of the year Monday, assigning lawmakers 10 days to consider revenue bills. Any legislation they support must pass by no later than Wednesday, June 27 at 6 p.m.

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