Representatives have suspended dozens of legislative rules to rush bills to the House floor that look at ways to find money and reduce spending without raising taxes. Some lawmakers have even started to challenge independent financial analyses done by the legislative staff -- which determine how much money each tax bill might generate -- in an effort to find more money.A lot of what they're doing is throwing Senate candidate Kennedy's "400 ways" against the wall to see if they stick. Mostly they aren't sticking. And the reason for this is they are mostly very bad ideas.
But so far, the Republican-controlled House has mostly run into roadblocks in their effort to close the budget gap without substantial tax increases. Some other budget-saving measures that have been floated -- such as canceling state contracts -- simply won't save enough money quickly enough to deal with the financial crisis.
A few bills have been filed to remove existing exemptions, including on prescription drugs and food. Legislation (House Bill 104) by state Rep. Julie Stokes, R-Kenner, would remove over 90 exemptions to the sales tax. It seems to be the preferred vehicle for doing so among most House members.There are so many stupid sales tax exemptions built into the Louisiana code that you'd sometimes think we were living in Ancien Regime France. But, of course, the privileges House Republicans are going after most aggressively are the few that still protect poor people.
But independent financial analysts have said sales tax exemption bills, like Stokes, won't bring in as much money as the penny increase. The sales tax increase bill, House Bill 62, is estimated to produce $222 million this budget year and $916 million for next year, according to a legislative financial analysis. Stokes bill would only bring in $60 million annually, and a fraction of that this fiscal year.
Well, okay, it's not only Republicans who are doing this.
Lawmakers aren't giving up on Stokes' bill and other proposals to remove sales tax exemptions to bring in big revenue -- and help them avoid tax increases. State Rep. Neil Abramson, D-New Orleans, questioned whether the fiscal analysis of Stokes' legislation and a few other bills was accurate.When Neil Abramson helped the Republicans take over the House leadership, he told us it was a good thing since they traded him a powerful committee chairmanship from which he would protect us from their bullcrap. How's that going?