SPECIAL SESSION 2018: Lawmakers once again punt decision on tax bills, to return Sunday

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - It was labeled as a "do or die" day for tax votes. Instead, Louisiana lawmakers found a third option Friday ... wait.

After hours of closed door meetings and negotiations, House legislators once again put off a decision on two key tax bills that could help fill in the state's projected $1 billion fiscal cliff. They are punting the votes until Sunday as they continue to scramble to gather a few more votes.

"We still have some room to get to where we need to be," said Rep. Stephen Dwight, R-Lake Charles. "We can see the goal line, but we need to get a little closer."

Dwight is sponsoring one of the two key bills up for consideration. His bill preserves a portion of the expiring penny of the sales tax.

The other bill, backed by Democrats, modifies the income tax. It removes a tax break used many upper-income earners, allowing them to deduct last year's state taxes from the current year.

During a vote on Friday afternoon, lawmakers failed to pass the measure. Some Republicans objected, calling it a tax increase.

"It is a $79 million personal income tax increase," said Rep. Alan Seabaugh, R-Shreveport. "And that can't be spun, that can't be spun any other way."

However, others argued that the middle- and lower-classes would be hurt more if the budget hole is not fixed and state programs are cut.

"When I do math for the people of my district, who work oil field jobs, who are retired teachers, who do all the things that we call our constituents and say we fight for - doing this bill they come out ahead," said Rep. Tanner Magee, R-Houma. "They come out to the good."

They did not kill the bill however, and plan to take it back up again on Sunday.

Lawmakers have been stuck in slow-moving stalemate for most of the past week over how to fix the budget shortfall.

If nothing is done, state colleges, hospitals, healthcare, and the TOPS program are facing deep cuts. Many legislators are frustrated.

"You can't tell me after six sessions, five specials, one regular session last year that we're not smart enough to figure this out," said Rep. Rob Shadoin, R-Ruston. "But when you allow ideology and allegiance to a party to trump principals, facts, and people, then you get what we're getting in here which is nothing."

It is not, however, just a simple Republican-Democratic divide. Each party has fractures in it, making negotiations extra difficult.

The House is set to return to the capitol starting at 5 p.m. on Sunday.

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