Senate takes up spending cuts package; Alcohol, cigarette tax hike vote Tuesday

Senate takes up spending cuts package; Alcohol, cigarette tax hike vote Tuesday

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Tens of millions of dollars in new taxes were scheduled for a vote on the House floor at the State Capitol Monday. However, less than $1 million in new money is advancing.

The bills to raise the tax on a pack of cigarettes by $.22 along with tax hikes on alcohol were not voted on Monday as expected. Instead, they were pushed back to Tuesday.

The House voted on just one tax bill, which would put a tax on car rentals that would bring in $800,000.

Meanwhile, the Senate is feeling the pressure to pick up and expand on what the House gave them last week with just a few more days left in the special session.

A package of spending cuts that was advanced Thursday out of the House was taken up by the Senate as a Senate committee discussed it Monday afternoon.

The bill from Rep. Cameron Henry, R-Metairie, is a package of an additional $101 million in spending cuts.

The problem is even with that package of cuts and new tax increases forwarded to the Senate, the state estimates it still needs to find an extra $150 or $200 million to close the state's $950 million shortfall.

Understanding that scenario some lawmakers like Henry do not appear the most optimistic the deficit can be closed.

"So we're going to need some additional revenues to finish this off, to help balance this out?" asked Sen. President John Alario, R-Westwego.

"I think regardless of the amount of money we spend we're still going to have a deficit to be perfectly honest with you," said Henry. "I think we'll be rolling some of this over to next year just based on the time that we have."

Alario then said rolling over any shortfall to next year would be unacceptable. Henry said that is not what he was implying he wants to do. He is just saying that could be the reality with the short amount of time lawmakers have left in the special session.

"I think it's the wrong mindset. The mindset ought to be focus on the problem today and get it done. Don't put it off to tomorrow. That's what got us into this mess in the first place."

Legislators must balance the budget at the fiscal year's end. It is in the state constitution. The special session closes on Wednesday, March 9.

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