- Associated Press - Friday, June 5, 2015

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) - A Ville Platte state senator had enough of a bill aimed at protecting Gov. Bobby Jindal’s no-tax record. Sen. Eric LaFleur proposed Friday to rename the legislation, to reflect how he felt about it: DUMB.

The proposed change on the Senate floor provoked angry speeches and shouting as the ongoing budget negotiations reached a boiling point with less than a week remaining in the legislative session.

The dispute involves a bill by Senate Finance Committee Chairman Jack Donahue that would create the Student Assessment for a Valuable Education, or SAVE, tax credit.

The proposal would involve raising a new “assessment” on college students. The students wouldn’t actually pay the fee because it would be covered by the state through the tax credit, paid directly to colleges.

Pushed by the Jindal administration, the measure is a pass-through that doesn’t decrease anyone’s taxes. But the tax credit can be an offset against tax increases used to generate new money for the state budget next year, to avoid a Jindal veto of the financing plans.

LaFleur, D-Ville Platte, proposed renaming the tax credit DUMB, for Don’t Understand Meaning of Bill.

“All it does is describe the bill for what it is, dumb,” he said.

Donahue, R-Mandeville, angrily called it an insult.

“I don’t appreciate you, and I don’t appreciate this amendment,” Donahue said, his voice rising. He added: “I’m doing the best I can for this Senate, and this makes a mockery of my bill.”

LaFleur withdrew the amendment, but only after yelling in defense of his position. He said the amendment wasn’t a joke, but an attempt to highlight what he described as a “trick” on the public.

“You really think you’re going to go home to your chambers (of commerce) and your Rotary Club and explain this? They’re going to laugh at you,” he shouted.

Jindal, expected to announce his presidential campaign on June 24, won’t support any tax changes he - or national anti-tax activist Grover Norquist - consider a net tax increase.

Senators are trying to reach a budget deal in which they can raise revenue to stop deep cuts to higher education and health care services while also avoiding a Jindal veto of the financing plans, so they’ve agreed to the SAVE bill.

Lawmakers in the House have balked, however, killing the first version of the proposal.

Donahue has attached the legislation to three House tax-related bills, seeking to force House passage. Friday’s debate, and LaFleur’s DUMB amendment, came on one of those bills.

Senators refused an effort by Sen. Karen Carter Peterson, D-New Orleans, to strip Donahue’s legislation from two of the House bills before passing them and returning them to the House.

Donahue defended his tax credit proposal as allowing lawmakers to raise revenue and escape a Jindal veto.

“My job as chairman of Senate Finance is to produce a budget that is as balanced as we can make it, given the circumstances that we have to work with, and to produce a budget that can be signed by the governor,” Donahue said.

After the debate, Sen. Ben Nevers urged civility: “I know it’s getting late in the session … but I have to rise and ask all of us to be respectful of one another.”

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Online:

House Bill 449: www.legis.la.gov

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