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Inching Forward and Pushing Back

Julie Stokes confers with Speaker and House Clerk

The full House had a lot on the docket Wednesday: capital outlay, the gasoline tax, and more than a dozen tax reform bills. But little of it went as planned.

Baton Rouge Representative Steve Carter has the bill to raise the gasoline tax by 17 cents per gallon, in order to build and repair roads and bridges.

“Members, we’re not there just yet on our vote,” Carter announced. “So with that, I would ask that HB 632 be returned to the calendar, placed as a special order of the day for next Wednesday, the 31st.”

But Kenner Representative Julie Stokes got her income tax bill through.

“It’s a constitutional amendment to enact a Louisiana flat tax at 3.95%, and that’s on personal income tax only,” she explained. It eliminates the federal income tax deduction and this concept is revenue neutral.”

Baton Rouge Representative Barry Ivey got the first piece of his comprehensive tax reform package to advance, as well.

“Members, this is the constitutional amendment that creates a flat tax on businesses,” Ivey said. “It also repeals the federal income tax deduction, at the same time.”

But when they got to nine other bills in Ivey’s overhaul of the state tax system, he announced:

“Because y’all were so kind, I’m going to move all the rest of my bills for the day to schedule next Tuesday.”

Delaying the tax reform and gasoline tax bills to next week is problematic, since it leaves the Senate a mere week to process the bills through their committees and full upper chamber votes, before the session’s mandatory end at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, June 8th.

Ways and Means chairman Neil Abramson’s capital outlay bill—the list of state construction projects – also cleared the House floor.

“Are we head, shoulders and stars and moons and sun above where we’ve ever been? Yes,” he asked an answered triumphantly, after a slimmed-down HB 2 passed.

But the companion bill to fund capital outlay, HB 3, did not pass. Every Democrat in the House voted against the measure, which requires a 2/3 majority vote.

House Democrats issued a statement immediately afterward, “Until the Republican majority agrees to our terms on a better budget, tax reform, and other matters, we will not approve this bill to fund their pet projects back home.”