BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Louisiana lawmakers voted Thursday on whether to advance $900 million in new tax measures in an effort to close the state's massive deficit.
Like a football coach before the big game, House Speaker Chuck Kleckley rallies his colleagues, moments before this session's most critical votes.
"Today is a day where people from all across the state are watching what we're doing here in this House chamber. Let's get to work," said Rep. Kleckley, R-Lake Charles.
Early items passed quickly, like a cigarette tax hike from Rep. Harold Ritchie which will raise $68 million.
"You're either voting to adequately fund healthcare and higher ed, or you're voting to make the cuts that are going to need to be made," said Rep. Joel Robideaux, R-Lafayette.
Combined with ten other tax measures, the House moved $664 million of the over $930 million on the table.
Meantime, while another bill would not pump any money into next year's budget, it did generate the most fireworks.
Rep. Lance Harris spoke against a cap on movie tax credits he says is too high.
"It's an industry on wheels and as soon as another state has a better deal than this, you're $1.3 billion investment for the last seven years is down the drain," said Rep. Harris, R-Alexandria.
The eleven tax bills will go to the Senate. That's where lawmakers may now have to the raise the extra money failed to be raised Thursday.
Supporters of raising nearly $1 billion in new revenue say it's absolutely necessary to avoid gutting public colleges and universities and healthcare. Those industries are on the chopping block and facing hundreds of millions in cuts if new revenue is not raised.
In a statement released Thursday, Gov. Jindal's office says, "We commend the House on their hard work today. This is one more step in the process towards passing a balanced budget that helps protect higher education and healthcare without raising taxes."
Several higher education leaders released statements regarding the revenue measures passed by the House of Representatives.
Joseph C. Rallo, Commissioner of Higher Education with the Louisiana Board of Regents:
Monty Sullivan, President of the Louisiana Community and Technical College System:
Sandra Woodley, President of the University of Louisiana System:
Ron Mason, President of Southern University System:
F. King Alexander, President and Chancellor of Louisiana State University: