Special Session 2018: Tax negotiations stall as lawmakers spar

Day three of Special Session 2018 (Source: WAFB)
Day three of Special Session 2018 (Source: WAFB)
Day three of Special Session 2018 (Source: WAFB)
Day three of Special Session 2018 (Source: WAFB)

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Just three days into the special session, negotiations appear to have stalled.

On Wednesday, the House Ways and Means Committee, the first stop for tax bills at the state capitol, put off a decision on a list of tax bills that could help fill in the state's projected $1 billion fiscal cliff. "I'm not ready to make a billion dollars in cuts. Not for my hospitals, not for my universities, not for my TOPS students," said Rep. Stephen Dwight, R-Lake Charles, urging lawmakers to send his bill to the House floor. "Without this bill, this session is over."

Starting July 1, a penny of the state sales tax falls off the books, contributing to the shortfall. So far, lawmakers cannot agree on how to make up the difference. Most Republicans want to make a portion of the penny permanent. Dwight's bill would set the state sales tax at 4.25 percent.

However, Democrats oppose relying on an increased sales tax to fill in the shortfall, arguing the sales tax unfairly hurts lower income folks. They want to modify the individual income tax instead. There is just one major problem: in order to get any tax bills moving, they will need at least some support from both sides of the aisle.

"If we're going to have a conversation about a fraction of a penny, we need to have conversations about excess itemized deductions ," said Rep. Ted James, D-Baton Rouge.

In his monthly radio show, Governor John Bel Edwards suggested for the first time that he would be open to keeping a portion of the penny of sales tax on the books, provided it's part of a compromise that includes tax reform. Only a few days in, many legislators already are not optimistic.

"It's in this whole building, it's everywhere you look. We don't care about what the other people think, we're all out for our own agenda," said Rep. Julie Stokes, R-Kenner.

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