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Guarding the Pledge: Tax Bills to Be Considered

Tax bills are on the agenda this week, in both the House and the Senate, and Governor Bobby Jindal says he’ll have his Secretary of Revenue and Commissioner of Administration watching the process closely.

“Tim Barfield and Kristy (Nichols) absolutely will be in committee and available to provide our perspective on these bills,” Jindal told reporters late last week.

The governor’s executive budget proposal includes doing away with refunds on business inventory taxes. That would—theoretically—free up $376-million that could be used for higher education and health care. The business community doesn’t like the idea one bit.

“We’ve worked very hard to make Louisiana a business-friendly state,” Jindal said in defense of his plan. “But at the same time, it would be unfair to leave corporate welfare untouched while we’re looking at a challenging budget situation.”

When the Senate Revenue and Fiscal Affairs Committee meets today, they’ll consider an alternative idea—doing away with the business inventory tax altogether. A complete repeal of the tax would free up an additional $76-million, for a total of $452-million in state savings. And it’s a concept the business community supports whole-heartedly.

But the governor isn’t saying where he stands on the idea, merely commenting that, “I think that’s a discussion that needs to be had.”

Whether Jindal will support or oppose Robert Adley’s SB 85 may be moot. If the measure makes it through the legislative process, the governor won’t have the final say. Because the bill is a proposed constitutional amendment, the governor cannot veto it.

Tuesday, the House Ways and Means Committee meets, debating bills to repeal the solar tax credit, cap tax credits for film production and fracking wells, and raise new revenue by taxing internet sales and upping the cigarette tax. Governor Jindal warns not all those ideas are going to fly.

“We understand if legislators want to look at perhaps raising rates in one place and lowering them in others,” Jindal said. “We’re fine considering those possibilities and looking at different combinations.”

Governor Jindal, who has signed the Americans for Tax Reform pledge, says the success or failure of any of these bills will all depend on how the pieces fit together to keep his pledge.

“We have made it very clear: we’re not for increasing taxes, period.”