With session at midway point, House panel votes on tax measures

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - With the legislative session nearing the halfway point, the fate of tax reform efforts remains unclear.

A House panel advanced a tax reform package Thursday sponsored by Rep. Barry Ivey, R-Central, but several other reform bills have yet to receive a single vote.

"If we do nothing, the problem will likely get worse," said Ivey.

Ivey's proposal would create a flat income tax rate for individuals and businesses, while removing some deductions and exemptions. However, even though the bills got through committee with unanimous support, some lawmakers felt uneasy.

"The unintended consequences that could come about are what make me nervous as a politician," said Rep. Jim Morris, R-Oil City.

That nervousness will likely grow tomorrow as lawmakers take on other tax reform ideas. Some are very similar to measures that advanced out of committee Thursday, including bills backed by the governor that eliminate deductions on the income tax.

Other bills are already facing pushback, including a proposal by Rep. Kenny Havard, R-Jackson, which creates a new flat tax on business to replace two older taxes that are currently on the books.

Havard told the committee his proposal is about ensuring that all businesses pay something. However, several Republicans on the panel, including Rep. Julie Stokes, R-Kenner, said another change to business tax policy is unhealthy.

"I'm afraid if we change the paradigm again, that we set up a dangerous precedent and we tell people we're just too unpredictable of a place to do business," said Stokes.

With just a matter of weeks to go, some lawmakers are sounding the alarm, saying nothing may be accomplished before the session ends.

"I don't see us necessarily being willing to do anything constructive, so therefore instead of finding opportunity in a crisis, we just keep prolonging the crisis," said Stokes.

Ivey's package of bills now heads to the full House, where it will likely face an uphill battle. Tax measures require a two-thirds vote of the full body.

On Tuesday, the House Ways and Means committee will reconvene. They are scheduled to vote on several parts of the governor's plan, as well as Havard's business tax bill.

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