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Tax Reform: What Are We Thinking?

Sue Lincoln

The upcoming legislative session will address tax reform, so what are we – the people of Louisiana – thinking?

“Most people think they’re paying their fair share, so finding the particular tax to raise and finding who is going to pay for it – that’s much more complicated,” says Michael Henderson with the LSU Public Policy Research Lab.

Henderson, who unveiled the first results of the 2017 version of the annual Louisiana Survey to the Baton Rouge Press Club Monday, says it shows state residents are willing to pay higher taxes when the money goes to support K-12 and higher education, health care and especially roads.

“There’s this overwhelming support – bi-partisan support, I might add – for raising the state’s tax on gasoline.”

But the survey also says residents want to see spending cuts. The problem remains where.

“They told us, ‘Don’t cut schools. Don’t cut roads, but you can find a way to cut some money in other places’.”

He says more survey respondents this year believe sales taxes are too high, compared to last year’s results.

Finding consensus on income taxes is much tougher. Take corporate taxes.

“Yes, corporations aren’t paying their fair share,” Henderson said, noting that 57 percent voiced this opinion. “But if you just change one word in the question – from ‘corporations’ and just use the word ‘businesses’, instead – all of a sudden most people think businesses are  either paying their fair share, or even paying more than their fair share.”

And, when it comes to individual income taxes?

“We asked people if they thought that people in upper income households were paying their fair share of taxes, and a large majority of people say, ‘No! They’re paying less than their fair share’.”

Henderson says the survey then tried to gauge who residents view as “upper income”.

“Turns out it’s usually the guy that makes a little bit more than me.”

Henderson says overall, the 2017 Louisiana Survey shows public tax philosophy hasn’t changed much since Louisiana’s own Russell Long told Congress the sentiment is, “Don’t tax you. Don’t tax me. Tax that fellow behind the tree.”