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Louisiana House In 'Extreme Deadlock' Over Tax Bills

Wallis Watkins
Tax bills stalled in the Louisiana House of Representatives Thursday, June 21.

The United States Supreme Court handed down a ruling Thursday that threw a curveball into tax negotiations inside the Louisiana Capitol. 

The ruling could open the door for states to collect sales tax from online retailers. Previously, states couldn’t collect sales tax on internet purchases unless a retailer had a physical location in the state.

"The Supreme Court ruling, I think, changed a lot of people's votes," said Rep. Stuart Bishop (R-Lafayette). Enough so that, just minutes into House debate Thursday, Rep. Bishop took his sales tax bill off the table. It would have initially set the rate at 4.5 percent, but would begin to decrease after three years.  It was seen as a way to pull in votes from Democrats in order to reach the 70 votes needed to pass. 

Bishop says the bill lost support in the wake of the SCOTUS ruling. Some members thought the internet sales tax change could mean a revenue windfall for Louisiana.

"As of right now," explained Bishop, "we do not have a timetable, when it'll happen and how much revenue it'll raise for the state."

Bipartisan tax groups say this is potentially good news for Louisiana, but the impact won't fix the immediate budget problems.

After hours of delay, the House finally came back to vote on a tax bill by Rep. Paula Davis (R-Baton Rouge). It would set the state sales tax rate at 4.4 percent until 2025.

"I brought this bill at .4 thinking it was a compromise," Davis told members of the House.

An amendment increased the rate to half a penny. But the House didn't have enough support to actually pass the half-penny over to the Senate.

Speaker of the House Taylor Barras (R-New Iberia) says the chamber is in an extreme deadlock.

"What we need is movement from the two corners," he explained, "because we're in two corners and no one has budged in the last three days."

In the meantime, negotiations continue. The House is expected give tax bills another shot Friday, as the Wednesday deadline approaches.