In the legislative session, State Sen. (and candidate for State Treasurer) Neil Riser (R-Columbia) has SB 240 which is a bill to exempt flood victims from taxation. His bill would allow flood victims to deduct up to $100,000 of their income from the 2017 state tax bill if they had at least $10,000 in flood damage in 2016.
It is very efficient flood relief that would go directly to flood victims by not taking the money in the first place. It also boosts Riser’s standing in the flood areas and gives him a good positive campaign commercial.
SB 240 passed its first test today. The Senate Revenue and Fiscal Affairs Committee agreed to report the bill favorably.,
In testimony, Riser says that around 85,000 homes suffered flood damage in 2016. Some families have still not gone home yet.
State Sen. J.P. Morrell (D-New Orleans) amended the bill to include this year’s New Orleans East tornado victims. Riser agreed to Morell’s amendment. The bill was approved in committee by voice vote.
The politics of the bill are easy for most legislators. The bill itself has no fiscal note so on paper, it should not cost the state a whole lot of money. Plus, who could be against providing relief to people who have lost their homes to flooding and tornadoes?
The bill also helps Riser politically as he seeks to run for higher office. Flood victims will be happy to have the tax relief and they would be more inclined to support Riser once he informs them that he was the one responsible for it. Also, Riser can point to this bill, if it passes, as demonstrating that he could actually pass legislation. It would help paint him as the adult in the race.
Finally, this tax relief bill is the most help many flood victims have received from the government so far. It is a smart political play by Riser and a compassionate one as well.