The Louisiana House worked behind the scenes Tuesday on tax negotiations. And key to those negotiations is the Legislative Black Caucus, led by Representative Joe Bouie (D-New Orleans).
"The strength of the Black Caucus regarding tax reform is the fact that you usually need 70 votes," he said.
Because some GOP representatives won’t vote for any tax measures in this special session, moving a deal out of the House is going to require Democrats' support. And the majority of them are in the Black Caucus, which gives the group some pull.
Under the current plan to address the budget shortfall, most of the revenue would be raised by temporarily increasing the state sales tax. The Caucus argues a higher sales tax hits low-income residents the hardest. But Bouie says they're willing to compromise.
"We will not vote to support a quarter penny or a half penny or any semblance of a temporary tax," he explained, "unless there’s some other revenue measures."
To bridge the gap, the Black Caucus is calling for changes to state income tax brackets that would impact higher earners.
Next year's budget is short by $994 million. Rep. Katrina Jackson (D-Monroe), a member of the Caucus, says it's important to replace all of that money to avoid cuts to programs like TOPS and healthcare services — a proposal that is creating a lot of uncertainty for her constituents.
"There are question marks on whether their children will stay here and go to school. There are question marks on whether there will be access to health care," she said.
But right now, the bills in the House don't generate enough revenue. The Legislature can only work on certain policies in a special session, which limits the options on the table. With that in mind, Jackson explained, "the brackets became very important because that was the last measure left that could generate revenue."
The House will convene Wednesday morning to continue debate.