Girl Scout Cookies, high school football caught up in tax debate at La. Capitol

Taxes on Girl Scout Cookies and high school football caught up in debate at La. Capitol
(Source: WAFB)
(Source: WAFB)

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Girl Scout Cookies and high school football tickets are caught in the balance as relations between the Louisiana House and Senate go from bad to worse.

Sen. JP Morrell, D-New Orleans, said Monday that he would not move his bill reinstating certain exemptions to the sales tax if the House does not advance more tax measures.

"SB 3 will not move and will likely not move anytime soon until we have some revenue bills from the House," said Morrell, who chairs the Senate Revenue and Fiscal Affairs Committee.

Coming into the second special session, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle both appeared to agree on a desire to fix mistakes made in March. In the chaotic last moments of the first special session, lawmakers approved a bill putting the sales tax on things like Girl Scout Cookies and tickets to high school football games.

Morrell's SB 3 would clean those mistakes up by reinstating the exemptions. However, those tax breaks cost the state revenue at a time when the state is short $600 million for the fiscal year starting July 1.

"In order to put an exemption back in place, that costs the state of Louisiana money. If the House keeps sending us anemic bills to raise revenue, we can't afford to fix the existing budget problems while also making bigger holes in the budget," Morrell said.

So far, the House has approved bills that would generate about $220 million next year. That is far short of the governor's $600 million goal.

Lawmakers have introduced several other bills that combined would generate hundreds of millions of dollars. However, they have become stalled in the Republican-majority House Ways and Means Committee.

"At the end of the day, if we're not able to fund higher education institutions, healthcare institutions, waivers, or veterans services and everything else that's underfunded to the tune of $600 million, there's no circumstance that I'm interested in passing any one of these exemptions," said Rep. Karen Carter Peterson, D-New Orleans.

House Speaker Taylor Barras, R-New Iberia, said he is disappointed by Morrell's announcement and defended the bills passed by his chamber and the amount they generate.

"With that number, we certainly secure that $50 million that needs to be shared with the safety net hospitals. It offers a great deal of what we need to secure total TOPS funding," Barras said.

Ultimately, the Senate committee did advance one sales tax exemption bill. SB 4 would create an exemption for licensed commercial fishermen when they purchase boats and other supplies.

"This particular group of folks, they got hit in a particular way that they shouldn't have on the front end," said Sen. Norby Chabert, R-Houma, who sponsored the legislation.

Peterson expressed concern over the measure because the exact cost to the state is unknown.

They also approved SB 7, which increases the earned income tax credit for the working poor. It would cost the state $20 million next year.

Both bills now head to the Senate floor for consideration.

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