BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - The House Ways and Means Committee approved a bill Monday, April 15 that would restore Louisiana’s three sales tax holidays, which lawmakers accidentally suspended during a scurry to fix the budget last special session.
Without objection, the committee approved Monroe Republican Jay Morris’s plan to restore the three holidays to the same form they were in before lawmakers eliminated them. That would allow for a hurricane preparedness holiday in May, a Second Amendment hunting holiday in September, and a back-to-school general sales tax break in August.
“When we got rid of that, it was one of the loudest cries I heard at home,” said Rep. Dodie Horton, R-Haughton.
The committee killed another bill by Rep. Barry Ivey, R-Baton Rouge, that would have consolidated the three holidays into one three-day period in August, and made uniform the exemptions across state and local levels.
Before it was suspended, the Second Amendment tax holiday exempted hunting equipment and firearms from state and local sales tax collections. The hurricane and general sales taxes exempted items from state sales tax collections only, which further complicates Louisiana’s oft-criticized tax code.
“It’s been a nightmare with some items being exempt [at one level] and then not at the other,” Ivey said. “It’s just been a lot of headaches.”
Consolidating the holidays would make it easier on the retailers, Ivey said, because they would not have to reprogram their cash registers several times each year to account for a new tax rate.
National tax policy experts generally frown upon tax holidays, especially when there are more than one each year. But lawmakers killed the idea, 11 to 7, because some were concerned local governments would miss out on revenue they need if the state mandated an exemption at both levels.
“My local governments are struggling,” said Rep. Phillip DeVillier, R-Eunice. “They struggle to make ends meat.”
They also said it makes more sense to have a hurricane preparedness tax break in May, ahead of hurricane season, rather than in August. Ivey offered to negotiate a different date. Ivey also offered to amend his bill so local governments would not be forced to forgive any taxes on his holiday weekend, noting that Morris’ bill still prevented local governments from collecting taxes on firearms on the Second Amendment holiday.
“If your principle is that you shouldn’t force these things on local government, then you should be consistent on your principle,” Ivey said. “It’s a great political thing, it’s just bad policy.”
Ivey’s bill also placed a $2,500 cap on each transaction, but left the number of transactions unlimited. That cap also concerned some lawmakers, and Ivey offered to eliminate it as well.
Morris’ bill now moves to the House floor for debate.