Last Modified: Thursday, February 28, 2013 6:22 PM
The Louisiana Legislature opens its regular session 37 days from now, and Gov. Bobby Jindal’s push to reform the state’s tax system remains long on theory and woefully short on details.
There have been tidbits here and there about how the governor wants to abolish personal and corporate income taxes, raise the state sales tax and do away with a number of tax exemptions.
Such a seismic shift isn’t anything to be entered into lightly, which may explain why the governor’s plan is still a work in progress. But it shouldn’t be a proposal that is sprung at the last minute on state lawmakers and the people who will be affected.
Last month, The Advocate of Baton Rouge reported that Jindal had distributed to some state lawmakers the framework of a plan that would increase the state sales tax by nearly 2 percent.
According to several legislators who were given a peek at the plan, the state sales tax would rise from the 4 cents per dollar to 5.78 cents. The excise tax on cigarettes would jump from 36 cents per pack to $1.41.
Jindal administration officials say the plan remains fluid.
“This is going to be a very collaborative process, and the models will be in flux and discussed before and throughout the session with legislators and stakeholders. Right now, nothing is final other than our goal of eliminating the personal and corporate income tax in a revenue-neutral manner,” said Tim Barfield, who is Jindal’s chief architect of the tax plan.
The governor likely is floating a few trial balloons and testing lawmakers’ pulses on the plan. By calling for elimination of some long-standing exemptions, he’s also weighing potential opposition from those affected industries.
The potential elimination of exemptions on severance taxes has gotten the attention of Don Briggs, president of the Louisiana and Oil Gas Association, who said his blood pressure rose when he learned that those exemptions were targeted.
Nevertheless, this is no parlor game. Any tax reform will have serious consequences.
The state doesn’t need a repeat of last year’s education reform package that was submitted to state lawmakers late, was not thoroughly vetted and was, in many instances, clumsily implemented.
That’s why the governor needs to settle on a plan and release it for public consumption long before the Legislature convenes on April 8.
• • •
This editorial was written by a member of the American Press Editorial Board. Its content reflects the collaborative opinion of the Board, whose members include Bobby Dower, Ken Stickney, Jim Beam, Crystal Stevenson and Donna Price.