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Three Days Left In Special Session And Still No Tax Deal

Wallis Watkins

A bill to raise state sales tax failed on the House floor for the second time Sunday night, putting even more doubt on the future of a rocky special session. 

Rep. Stephen Dwight (R-Lake Charles) urged members to send his bill to the Senate.

“This bill is the centerpiece of this special session," he said.

It was the largest tax bill left on the table, generating about $300 million - almost a third of the money needed for next year’s budget gap.

Another measure that has made it to the floor would make changes to the state’s income taxes , raising another $80 million. It’s favored by Democrats, like Rep. Ted James (D-Baton Rouge), who argue a higher sales tax rate hits low-income residents the hardest.

“So as opposed to leaving the majority of the burden on them," he explained, "we decided to go home.”

In order to support raising the state sales tax to 4.25%, Democrats have said income tax changes needed to pass as well.

“It’s important that we have a balanced approach and we don’t just rely on a regressive sales tax to get us out of this problem,” he said.

The inability to reach a compromise on taxes this special session has highlighted a deep mistrust in the House. That came to a head Sunday night when the sales tax bill came up for a vote. Many feared that if it passed first, any agreement to then pass income tax changes would have broken down.

Rep. Julie Stokes (R-Kenner) says it comes down to a lack of trust between members.

“It’s so divided that people can’t come together and respect one another and trust one another to make something work,” she explained with frustration.

Because the sales tax bill has already been brought up twice, it can’t be considered again.

Lawmakers will come back Monday afternoon, with no clear path forward. Each day of the special session costs taxpayers about $60,000.