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2017 Session: The Table is Set

Sue Lincoln

Lawmakers gather at the Capitol for today’s start of the 2017 legislative session, and there’s a lot on the menu: a challenging budget, comprehensive tax reform, criminal justice reform, roadwork backlogs and more. Few, if any, of the options seem to be to everyone’s taste, however.

“Tax reform to me means cutting taxes. Tax reform to our esteemed governor means you pay more,” Shreveport Republican Representative Alan Seabaugh says. He’s one of two dozen or so in the House who oppose any revenue raising measures – including a gasoline tax increase to help with the $13-billion DOTD backlog of projects.

“I don’t want to give him 2 cents a gallon,” Seabaugh says, referring to Governor Edwards. “I don’t think we need it.”

Baton Rouge Republican Steve Carter takes a more moderate stance, saying this session will test lawmakers’ convictions about priorities.

“Is early childhood more important than infrastructure?” Carter says he’s been asking himself. “We’ve got to find some way to solve this problem, and there’s no money. So, we’ve got to do something.”

House Democrats Walt Leger, Katrina Jackson and Sam Jones will be carrying the bills for Governor John Bel Edwards’ tax reform package. House Republicans Barry Ivey and Jay Morris have filed competing packages of tax reform bills, which include flat income tax rates, and completely cleaning all the sales tax pennies.

The governor says statewide polls show the citizens support his approach.

“The people of Louisiana are open to new and more revenue, so long as there is a balanced approach, and that there are savings wherever those are possible,” Edwards said at a recent press conference.

But Seabaugh still says no.

“We do not need more revenue. We do not have a shortage of money – period – end of story!”

They have 60 days to hash it all out, starting at noon today.