Tax Talks Underway In Advance Of Third Special Session

Jun 15, 2018

With a short break between the second and third special sessions, House and Senate leaders, including Senate President John Alario, are using this week to jumpstart the tax debate.

"We're trying to see if there's some kind of way we can make a compromise before we get to the session to iron out some differences way may have," says Alario (R-Westwego).

Over a billion dollars in revenue will expire on July 1, when the state sales tax drops to 4 percent. Starting Monday, lawmakers will have 10 days to try and reach an agreement on how much of that revenue to replace.

Sen. Eric LaFleur (D-Ville Platte) — leader of the finance committee — says now that the Legislature has passed a budget, they'll be able to focus their attention on one issue: sales tax.

"All we can do is decide, of the budget that was adopted, what will we pay for," says LaFleur. "That’s really the only issue."

Right now, they're about $500-million short of paying for everything in the spending plan.

Senate President Alario says raising the state sales tax by half a penny — to 4.5 percent — would fully fund the budget.

"I think the goal in the Senate is to try and fund TOPS to 100 percent of what's required, to fund higher education, to make sure the food stamp program is administered," says Alario.

But over in the House, Republican leaders would rather set the state sales tax at 4.3 percent.

Talks continue between lawmakers to determine which sales tax measure has enough support to pass in a third special session. Gov. Edwards — who supports keeping half a penny— is urging legislators to compromise.

Rep. Cameron Henry (R-Metairie), head of the appropriations committee, met with the Governor earlier this week.

"From all indications, the Governor is not gonna compromise on the penny. He wants a half a penny or nothing," Henry says. "He's never been willing to compromise on it, and I don't think he'll be willing to at this point."

Henry and other fiscal conservatives are pushing for less government spending, rather than more revenue.