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House Moves Forward On Deal To Fix Louisiana Budget Crisis

Wallis Watkins

A deal is finally moving forward in the House to address the state’s looming billion-dollar budget shortfall. Key tax and budget measures were able to make it out of committee Sunday, but not without opposition. 

Until now, the House could not compromise on ways to raise revenue.

Republican leaders in the House would prefer some of the budget gap to be filled through sales tax. Rep. Stephen Dwight’s (R-Lake Charles) bill would raise about $200 million by maintaining a fraction of a temporary increase on state sales tax, bringing it from 4 percent to 4.25 percent.

That rate would have been permanent, but Rep. Alan Seabaugh (R-Shreveport) proposed making it temporary, expiring after three years.

"I would think that by making this change permanent," Seabaugh explained, "it’s admitting that we can't fix the problem, and I’m not ready to admit that yet."

Rep. Barry Ivey (R-Baton Rouge) opposed the bill, saying it does nothing to address the structural problems in Louisiana's budget.

"I believe this is a money grab to solve a legitimate problem, but instead of doing it responsibly, we're basically doing the lazy, easy thing," he said.

Rep. Walt Leger (D-New Orleans) says after a slow start to the special session, long-term budget reform doesn't appear to be possible at this time, "so we're dealing with what is and trying to piece together some semblance of structural reform that may not be everything we all want, but at least creates some level of stability that we can try to build upon as we move forward."

His bill to make changes to how itemized deductions can be claimed on state income taxes also passed the committee.

Both measures are set to be taken up by the House on Monday morning.