Capitol Access: Lawmakers Tackle Tax Reform, Budget, Healthcare Day One
The Legislature is already taking up Gov. Bobby Jindal’s charge to move a bill to phase out the income tax, just a day after the governor ditched his own plan for repeal. The House will consider sending fiscal-hawk Rep. Kirk Talbot’s six-year income tax phase-out to the House Ways and Means Committee when it convenes at 4 p.m. Tuesday.
Meanwhile, former point man for the governor’s plan, Tim Barfield, spoke to the Senate Committee on Revenue and Fiscal Affairs in what was planned as a routine check-in with the Dept. of Revenue.
When Sen. Robert Adley asked if the governor’s requirement that tax overhauls not disrupt balancing the budget still stands, Barfield said that was up to the legislature.
“My marching orders are clear, are to go work with the bills and see what we can do with those," Barfield said, shakily, "it would be my desire to look at eliminating income taxes.”
Sen. JP Morrel echoed the committee’s sentiment, saying it would be irresponsible not to make up the revenue lost by eliminating the tax.
House Appropriations Chairman Jim Fannin has said repeatedly over the past few weeks of committee meetings that the public would get its time to speak -- that time has come. The Appropriations Committee has reserved Tuesday and Wednesday for public comment.
People who would be affected by cuts to programs and services in Gov. Bobby Jindal's budget descended upon the state capitol to ask lawmakers to reconsider the reductions.
According to the Associated Press, parents of disabled children, parish emergency officials and elderly residents were among those who filled a House committee room to ask for help from the Appropriations Committee in next year's budget.
Victoria Howes from Covington asked lawmakers to reverse Jindal's proposed elimination of a state program that helps the elderly apply for free and reduced cost medications.
Jerry Sneed, director for New Orleans' emergency preparedness office, sought to undo planned reductions in grant funding for local homeland security efforts. He said the cuts could force reductions in local emergency response staff to levels not seen since before Hurricane Katrina.
Affordable Care Act
Tuesday afternoon the Senate Committee on Health and Welfare meets to discuss Medicaid options being pursued by other states. CEO of the Arkansas Foundation for Medical Care, Ray Hanley, is set to testify before the committee via telephone about Arkansas' ideas to expand coverage through Medicaid exchanges. Louisiana's Department of Health and Hospitals will also testify.