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“Offsets” Are Latest Budget-Balancing Tool


A bill to increase a tax credit program by $47-million dollars found favor with the House Ways and Means Committee Tuesday. Speaker Pro Tem Walt Leger’s HB 70 would double Louisiana’s current Earned Income Tax Credit.

“This allows about 30-percent of the state of Louisiana to keep more of their earned money,” Leger told the committee.

There were the kind of arguments for the bill that you’d expect.

“I see this bill as a response to consistent criticism that I hear – in this building and in the community at large – about people ‘getting something for nothing’,” Leger explained. “This program is one that rewards people for working.”

Father Fred Kammer, with Loyola’s Social Research Institute, said increasing Louisiana’s credit from 3 ½ percent to 7 percent of the federal EITC would be a raise for Louisiana’s working poor.

“The dollar value to each family of the federal share was $2685,” Kammer said of the most recent tax year. “The state value was $94.”

There were objections, like this from Kenner Rep. Julie Stokes, who said she wasn’t comfortable with the timing.

“We’re going to be back in this building – probably in early 2016 – for a special session that will focus on tax reform,” Stokes said, urging a delay in acting on this bill. “I think that would probably be better timing.”

“I share your concerns with the timing,” Leger responded. “However, given the nature of our situation and the need for offsets, I thought it was an appropriate thing to bring at this time.”

“Offsets” ended up being the key argument. This bill could help offset the House-approved tax increases, thus assisting with keeping the budget within the governor’s “no net tax increase” guidelines.

“If we’re going to ultimately balance the budget – without vetoes – we need to just be cognizant that, at this point in the session, providing the Senate with some options on offsets is, I think, a valuable tool,” Leger explained.

Committee members, several crossing party lines, voted 8-6 to advance the bill to the full House.