Lawmakers reportedly closer to compromise to fix budget shortfall

Lawmakers reportedly closer to compromise to fix budget shortfall

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - The clock is moving closer to the deadline for the Louisiana Legislature as lawmakers still work to fix the budget shortfall. 
        
After hours of bargaining and backroom dealing, lawmakers may be reaching a compromise as no new revenue bills will be originating from the House. The Senate will be sending over a final solution and compromise Tuesday.

The deal, if approved by all parties, will reportedly bring the budget close even and will come from altering current bills and possibly more cuts.

Part of the wheeling and dealing Monday night focused on the sales tax increase, something which has been met with disagreement.

HB 62, which was authored by Rep. Katrina Jackson, D-Monroe, is viewed as a quick fix, allowing the state to begin collecting money the day it goes into effect.

"The sales tax is almost instant the day it's signed and that's where a lot of the conversations are revolving right now," said Rep. John Schroder, R-St. Tammany Parish. "The sales tax is the only thing that's gonna get us the money to finish this year."

However, a lot of disagreements were over how much the tax should be raised and for how long. The House called for the taxes to expire after 18 months, while the Senate is looking for five years.

"A five-year penny is not temporary by my definition," Schroder said.

Some lawmakers floated the idea of raising the tax beyond just a penny. That is something that many, including Governor John Bel Edwards, have objected to, saying it puts too much of a burden on the middle class. 
 
"We've already got the third highest sales tax in the country. Once you add the penny, I think you're the highest, and once you add another .5, .6, .75, which are all different things that I've heard then you get to be extraordinarily high," said Rep. Julie Stokes, R-Jefferson Parish.

"The working class people, the people who get up and go to work every morning. There's no lobbyist for them. That's our job," said Rep. Kenneth Havard, R-East Baton Rouge, East Feliciana, and West Feliciana parishes.

The governor has been critical of increasing the sales tax beyond a penny, even calling on House Republicans to double the earned income tax credit in exchange Monday night. That proposal was rejected.

Things are now down to the wire as the House and Senate are set to meet Tuesday with just two days left.

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