Last week Governor Bobby Jindal announced his main priority this session would be repealing the income tax. Lawmakers took that off of the table on Monday.
Chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, Representative Joel Robideaux, said he’d spoken with constituents, House leadership, and policy analysts. There’s little support for bills that repeal the income tax without making up the revenue. “As a result of my conversations and review of the analysis," Robideaux said, "I would prefer if we indefinitely shelve bills to repeal the income tax. It’s a difficult, but I believe necessary measure.”
Robideaux then allowed three representatives who had scheduled bills to speak. Rep. Hunter Greene’s ten-year phase-out of the income tax was shot down two years ago, but he introduced the measure again Monday. “There have been certain members that have come back and said we don’t have a plan," Greene said. "Well, the plan starts with a repeal of the income tax.” The next step, says Greene, would have been figuring out how to make up the revenue.
Fiscal Hawk Kirk Talbot offered a series of bills – an income tax phase out and a bill to expand the sales tax. Talbot, like every representative that came before the committee, voluntarily deferred his bills.
At committee meetings, members of the public that wish to speak must fill out cards. Members of Together Baton Rouge and Together Louisiana made up the majority of opposition present at the meeting.
Representative Barry Ivey, from Baton Rouge, says he has spoken to constituents that support the repeal. “But they’re working and paying taxes," Greene said.
Governor Jindal said lawmakers are missing an opportunity in a written statement: “Eliminating the income tax is the single best thing we can do to create jobs in Louisiana.”
House Speaker Chuck Kleckley voiced his support for Robideaux in a statement.
Last Monday Governor Jindal asked the legislature to come up with its own plans to repeal the income tax. This Monday, Ways and Means Chair Joel Robideaux said the legislature won't take up that charge this session.
Over twenty bills were on the agenda; all of them were voluntarily deferred by their authors. Bills that did not repeal income taxes will be taken up next week.
Members from Together Baton Rouge/ Together Louisiana attended the meeting to voice opposition to income tax repeal measures.
Reps. Barry Ivey and Hunter Greene spoke about their plans for repeal, saying the repeal is a move their constituents want to see.
Rep Robideaux's full statement:
"Over the last several months we have all grappled with the issues involved when considering the repeal of the income tax – either immediately, or over time.
I personally want to thank the Governor for opening up debate on this issue. It is my hope that the work done these past few months can serve as the foundation for an ongoing debate on how to best reform our state’s tax structure.
Since the Governor’s address to the legislature last week, I have spoken with numerous members of the House including legislative leaders. I have talked at length with Speaker Kleckley about our shared concerns and how to best resolve this matter. I have also reviewed the analysis of the policy community – CABL, PAR and LABI.
As a result, my preference is that we should indefinitely defer consideration of these bills. This is a difficult, but I believe, necessary action.
That being said, I respect the legislative process, and since I've scheduled the bills for a hearing, if a member wants their bill heard, I will honor that request."
Governor Jindal's office has not yet issued a statement.