Louisiana’s House of Representatives is still sharply divided over how to fix the fiscal cliff. The House was finally set to vote on tax and budget bills Wednesday, but when members took to the floor hours behind schedule, it still wasn’t clear if they were any closer to a compromise.
A crucial part of the negotiations was a sales tax increase by Rep. Stephen Dwight (R-Lake Charles).
"I’m in a conservative district in southwest Louisiana. This is a difficult vote for me, but it’s the right vote," he explained.
His bill would increase state sales tax by a quarter of a penny for three years and remove some tax breaks for businesses. But on the House floor, a slew of exemptions were attached. As written, the bill would have raised about $300 million. Rep. Kenny Havard (R-Jackson) pointed out that the more exemptions added, the less money raised.
“I’m not sure what this one is now because we’ve basically whittled it down to nothing, adding all these exemptions back on it," he said.
Democrats don’t support relying solely on sales tax to fill the budget gap. Especially if it doesn’t address the entire $994 million fiscal cliff, says Rep. Walt Leger (D-New Orleans).
"This bill," he warned, "does not get us on the way to a solution."
Even though some republican representatives won’t vote for any tax increases this special session, GOP leaders in the House supported temporarily increasing the state sales tax. Rep. Lance Harris is the head of the House Republicans. He says a vote for the bill was a vote to keep the session moving.
“Let’s try to salvage where we are, get this over to the Senate, and work with the rest of the bills that we have," he urged.
The bill needed 70 votes to pass. Getting little more than half of that — it failed.
The House will meet again Thursday afternoon.