After first week of session, key part of Governor's tax plan still not filed

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - With Louisiana legislators already home after their first week of session, one of the governor's key tax reform bills has not yet been filed.

"There's a little bit of frustration because it's such a big part of the governor's package," said Rep. Paula Davis, R-Baton Rouge. "And being on Ways and Means committee, I would like to have done some research before we hear the bill."

Outlining his tax plan Monday, Governor John Bel Edwards challenged lawmakers to bring their own ideas to the table. "If there's a better idea out there – let's see it. Don't hide it. Let's debate," he said.

However, one of the governor's own ideas, the "Commercial Activity Tax," is seemingly in hiding.

Generally speaking, the tax would apply to how much corporations take in before expenses, such as payroll, are deducted. The governor's office says it would bring in $800 - 900 million each year, replacing state revenue lost by reducing the sales tax by a penny.

However, the idea caught lawmakers from both parties off guard. The tax is not used in many other states and was not one of the recommendations from a tax and budget reform task force. Lawmakers say they want specifics, but with the bill still not filed, they say they do not fully know what to expect.

"I think that causes a nervousness somewhat and possibly a misunderstanding," said Rep. Jim Morris, R-Oil City.

Even the governor's own allies admit they are anxious. "Until I see a bill, I have a lot of questions," said Rep. Ted James, D-Baton Rouge.

"Whether it would have been filed early or not, I think it would have helped many of us who try to work in a non-partisan way to have at least a skeletal outline," said Rep. Rob Shadoin, R-Ruston.

The head of the Department of Revenue, Kimberly Robinson, said those in the Edwards administration are taking their time because they want to make sure they get it right. "The bill is in the process of being filed. We are working on some final cleanup items, we've been talking to different industries, different sectors, making sure we've addressed all their concerns, so we're not in the process of going through extensive amendments," said Robinson.

The deadline to file bills is next Wednesday, April 19. The governor's office says they will beat that deadline, introducing the measure by Monday. However, some lawmakers already believe the measure will be dead on arrival in the House of Representatives. New taxes need a two-thirds vote to pass.

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