The Senate passed a budget, and a tax bill to pay for it, that fully funds TOPS, higher ed, and healthcare. The tax bill raises 508 million dollars by renewing half of the expiring penny sales tax, and eliminating some business tax deductions. Ville Platte Senator Eric LaFleur says it’s a compromise that he hopes everyone can be content with.
“We did the best that we could. What we chased and what we found and what we allocated were smart, and part of a good solid policy.”
Governor John Bel Edwards praised the legislation, saying “Louisiana has moved one step closer to avoiding catastrophic cuts.”
If adopted, the state sales tax would drop from the current five percent to 4.5 percent. LaFleur says late night talks with department heads led to tens of millions of dollars being freed up that could be passed back to taxpayers in tax breaks.
“At the end of the day we chose to raise the minimal amount of money that it would take to fund important things in state government.”
The plan also included a 21 million dollar increase in the Earned Income Tax Credit, which gives up to an additional 95 dollars a year on tax returns to 43 percent of Louisiana’s workers, often referred to as the working poor.
But not everyone was happy with the direction of the bill. Slidell Senator Sharon Hewitt says claims that the spending plan is a standstill budget are not true, because total spending levels are still higher than last year.
“This budget would be 9.6 billion, compared to the current year of 9.461, and the previous year was 9.1.”
The budget and tax bill will be heard in the House today, the last day of the special session.