Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Penny ante

It's go time in the House. Some key revenue generating measures are expected to come up for vote today
State lawmakers’ willingness to raise taxes that Gov. John Bel Edwards says are needed to prevent devastating cuts to vital government services will get its first test Tuesday in the special legislative session.

The test will take place in a State Capitol basement room where the 19 members of the House Ways and Means Committee are scheduled to vote on nearly 40 different tax measures beginning Tuesday morning.

“Members are processing whether they can vote for new revenue measures and which ones,” state Rep. Jay Morris, R-Monroe, said in an interview, summing up the view of others.

Edwards is proposing to raise about $350 million by raising taxes on sales, tobacco, alcohol and telephones and by trimming tax breaks for corporations and individuals. He is also seeking to cut at least $160 million in government spending and use $328 million in one-time money — all to close a $900 million shortfall by June 30.
Whether or not they can vote for the taxes depends on what sort of ransom they can demand. The Republicans haven't finished their spreadsheet or manifesto or whatever it was they were working on yet but they have dropped some hints.
House Republicans, under the direction of their caucus leader, state Rep. Lance Harris, were finishing up their list of ideas but did not provide them to Edwards Monday as planned.

Harris declined to provide specifics in advance of a meeting, saying only they would be presenting “things our members want.”

The items are believed to involve pensions for state employees, the tax system, sentencing laws, transparency in government and how the state spends money on roads and bridges. Edwards told The Advocate Friday night that he was open to hearing their ideas.
They want to take people's pensions away.  Because you can't get anything done around here without making some sop to ideologically driven cruelty, I guess. 

Meanwhile, I'm a little upset that this is all happening after Carnival.  "Clean pennies and Dirty pennies" might have made for some fun costume ideas.
The governor’s most controversial tax measure, House Bill 62, by state Rep. Katrina Jackson, D-Monroe, would raise the state sales tax by a penny to five cents. (Consumers pay more because of sales taxes added by local governments.)

Nearly 200 types of transactions are exempt from sales tax. Jackson’s bill would not allow those exemptions on the additional one-cent, in what tax insiders call “a clean penny.” Her measure would raise an estimated $220 million before June 30 — meaning it would raise more than half of the $350 million that Edwards wants — and $910 million the following year.

House Republicans are insisting that Edwards agree to limit the one-cent sales tax increase to three or five years, which he could accept if the Legislature would raise other taxes to offset the disappearance of the additional penny.

At the same time, Jackson and state Rep. Julie Stokes, R-Kenner, have separate bills that would eliminate the exemptions on the existing four cents of sales taxes, which are known as “dirty pennies” because of the exemptions on them.
Ideally the extra "clean" penny would go away after lawmakers finally agree to a more sane tax structure that  either reinstates something like the Stelly plan or, at the very least, cuts back on the hundreds of millions of dollars in direct annual corporate welfare payouts via our dubious tax credit programs. Those are the dirtiest pennies of all.

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