- Associated Press - Saturday, June 18, 2016

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) - As Louisiana’s special session on taxes enters its final week, only three tax bills remain in play for lawmakers considering ways to boost state revenue and lessen budget cuts next year.

All three await decisions in the House, which has been more conservative on taxes and where Republicans have shown a willingness to bottle up many of the tax proposals sought by Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards.

But House Speaker Taylor Barras, R-New Iberia, said he thinks the three remaining proposals, to lessen a personal income tax deduction and businesses’ property tax breaks, “all have a reasonable opportunity” of winning support.

In the 18-day special session, the House and Senate have sent to the governor’s desk a package of tax bills that raise roughly $220 million for the financial year that begins July 1, largely through a tax hike on health care organizations known as HMOs.

Edwards said that’s not enough money to stop significant cuts to health, education and public safety programs. He’s seeking to reach at least $600 million in the special session, though he says that might not cover all the gaps, with word Louisiana could have as much as a $200 million deficit in the current financial year that could worsen next year’s shortfall.

The session must end by Thursday, so decisions the House makes Sunday and Monday on the remaining tax bills likely will settle how much money will be available to close gaps.

Scheduled for a Sunday evening House floor vote is a proposal to scale back a tax break for people who itemize deductions on their state income tax forms. Bill sponsor Rep. Malinda White, D-Bogalusa, wants to heavily rewrite the bill.

To get the measure out of committee, White had agreed to changes by Ways and Means Chairman Neil Abramson, D-New Orleans, that made the bill’s effects temporary and would require the state to repay taxpayers for their lost deductions in two years.

“I think that approach is awful,” Edwards said.

The planned rewrite would simply end a person’s ability to use state income taxes paid among their list of itemized deductions. They still could deduct medical expenses, home mortgage interest payments, charitable contributions and other items.

Abramson opposes the revamp. Edwards described it as “better tax policy.”

About 23 percent of individual taxpayers could be affected by the bill, most of them estimated to make $100,000 a year or more. If it wins House support, White’s bill still would need to make it through the Senate.

Planned for Monday morning hearings in the Ways and Means Committee are two bills that have won Senate backing, to lessen property tax breaks for businesses.

On, by Sen. Rick Ward, R-Port Allen, would force large manufacturers to choose whether they want to be exempted from paying local property taxes on their manufacturing facilities or from paying property taxes on inventory. Currently, they can get both exemptions.

The bill would save the state treasury an estimated $139 million annually.

Opponents say it would discourage development.

“It would subject manufacturers to an inventory tax that few states impose on their businesses and add yet another layer of complexity to Louisiana’s tax system,” the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry said in an email objecting to the proposal.

Also awaiting Ways and Means debate is a Senate-approved bill from Sen. J.P. Morrell, D-New Orleans, that would rework an inventory tax credit to lessen its cost to the state.


Senate Bills 6 and 10 and House Bill 38: www.legis.la.gov


Follow Melinda Deslatte on Twitter at https://twitter.com/melindadeslatte

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