Smokers, business leaders react to Governor Edwards' tax proposal

Smokers, business leaders react to Governor Edwards' tax proposal

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Some proposed tax increases by Governor John Bel Edwards are not sitting well with two groups: small business owners and smokers.

Edwards is in a position to fill an immediate budget gap of $750 million. Something that is not going to be easy because two-thirds of the state government's current fiscal year is already gone.

Barry Erwin with Council for a Better Louisiana (CABL), a government watch group, said the state is running out of options.

"People have gotten tired of talking about cutting universities. They don't want to cut education, they don't want to cut healthcare anymore either," he said.

Part of Edwards' solution comes as a package of tax increases that would affect everyone. Among them: a one-cent sales tax increase, raising the tax on cigarettes from 86 cents to $1.08 per pack, and other tax changes or increases that would affect business owners.

"Is it going to come out just the way he's proposed it? No," said Erwin.

Baton Rouge resident Daniel Howell said he has been a smoker on and off since he was 15. He said the governor should look elsewhere for dollars, especially since the legislature just passed a 50-cent-per-pack increase on cigarettes during the last session.

"That's going to kill everyone," Howell said. "All the smokers. I mean, cigarettes are already almost $6 a pack."

Dawn Starns represents many of Louisiana's small businesses. She said under the governor's plan, small business owners get hit the hardest.

"We're afraid with all the new taxes being proposed, on top of the new cost to the Medicaid Expansion, the proposed minimum wage increases the governor's talking about," Starns said.

Part of Edwards' proposal gets rid of things like the business utility exemption. Starns said that means places like dry cleaners and bakeries, where more energy is used, would pay more.

In the end, Starns said those owners would be faced with tough decisions.

"The end result is that they will either cut workers, cut hours, close shop or increase prices."

Edwards and several business leaders will be traveling to Washington D.C. for Mardi Gras in D.C. They said to expect the proposal to be among the discussions.

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