Now They’re In The Louisiana House Voting On Whether To Raise Your Taxes

As of this writing there are several bills lined up in the Louisiana House of Representatives which would combined, raise somewhere in the neighborhood of a half-billion dollars worth of taxes on the people of Louisiana.

These bills, we’ve heard several times this week, were all supposed to be dead. Now they’re not, maybe.

HB 8, which is a bill by Democrat Rep. Walt Leger of New Orleans that would amount of the individual income tax deduction for excess federal itemized personal deductions – and raise taxes by some $79 million in doing so – is rumored to have enough Republicans behind it that it might pass.

House Republican Delegation Chairman Lance Harris (R-Alexandria) told several members of his delegation yesterday that he wasn’t whipping the excess itemized deductions bill. And yet it went from having little chance of passage yesterday to being expected to pass today, which would indicate that on their own several Republican House members just decided to raise $79 million in state income taxes.

Sure. Sounds reasonable.

Later today they’re going to bring back Rep. Stephen Dwight’s HB 23, the quarter-penny sales tax restoration bill which failed badly on Wednesday. That bill will need 70 votes. We’ll see whether it can get there – it would take double the support the bill received two days ago to pass.

U.S. Sen. John Kennedy, who’s often rumored as a likely 2019 gubernatorial candidate and currently polling at a virtual dead heat with incumbent John Bel Edwards, put out a rather forceful statement on the tax increase bills just a few minutes ago…

“The state of Louisiana just paid $400,000 to out-of-state artists to turn stainless steel washers into a sculpture at the University Medical Center in New Orleans. With spending priorities like that, it’s no wonder Gov. Edwards and Democrats are trying to swipe the pay raises and bonuses that Congress’ federal tax reform put into Louisiana families’ pockets,” said Sen. Kennedy.

“In this special session, they are gutting sensible spending reform proposals beyond recognition, are pushing to increase income taxes yet again and are attempting to unravel the income tax cuts accomplished by Congress. That’s not ‘compromise’ or ‘bipartisanship.’ That’s absurdity. When you’re spending $400,000 on a sculpture by out-of-state artists while standing at the edge of a so-called fiscal cliff, your budget crisis is just smoke and mirrors. Louisiana doesn’t have a revenue problem; it has a spending problem. I hope conservatives in the Legislature will stand up and protect the pocketbooks of hard-working Louisiana families.”

Kennedy’s crack about the statue refers to “We Stand On The Shoulders Of Those Who Came Before Us,” which was just unveiled in New Orleans this week to some murmuring from folks concerned about spending via Louisiana’s Percent For Art Program, under which the following dictate is established…

“…the Percent for Art law, enacted in 1999, stipulates that whenever more than $2 million in state funds is to be spent by a state agency for the construction or renovation of a state building, 1 percent of the state money shall be expended for the project to acquire, conserve, or restore and install works of art for display in, on, or on the grounds of the state building.”

It’s not exactly the same pot of money as the state’s general fund, but Kennedy’s point is still well made.

Updates as the votes come.

UPDATE: As the debate on HB 8 proceeded it appeared there was a major problem in finding support for it. As such, the House just went into a 30-minute recess before the vote.

UPDATE #2: After a lengthy and somewhat heated debate, HB 8 failed on a 50-51 vote. That was a bill which supposedly had the votes earlier today.

UPDATE #3: From a source in the House, Speaker Taylor Barras has gathered all the Republican committee chairmen in his office and is pressuring them to support HB 23, the $300 million sales tax increase bill. Threats are being made.

If you read this as snatching defeat from the jaws of victory, you wouldn’t really be wrong.

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