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(Associated Press)

(Associated Press)

Editorial: Jindal tax reform proposal taking a beating

Last Modified: Wednesday, March 27, 2013 7:03 PM

Gov. Bobby Jindal’s tax reform proposal has taken on the appearance of a piñata during the last few days.

Several different voices have raised opposition to the governor’s plan to eliminate all personal and corporate income tax and replace it with a higher states sales tax.

Various groups of ministers, two highly respected nonpartisan good government organizations and a leading newspaper in the state have all raised concerns about the idea, which Jindal plans to introduce in the state Legislature next month and hopes to have in place by the beginning of next year.

Late last week, religious leaders from around the state said during a news conference at the State Capitol that Jindal’s plan had underestimated the tax burden it would place on families.

‘‘This is about more than just numbers on a page. This is about integrity and people’s lives,’’ said the Rev. Melvin Rushing.

The bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Louisiana, the Rev. Morris Thompson, called on Jindal to withdraw his proposal.

The news conference was the second time in the last 10 days that religious leaders had expressed concerns.

On Thursday, the Public Affairs Research Council said Jindal has ‘‘created a significant opportunity for improvement in the state’s tax system’’ but said it would ‘‘tend to shift the tax burden away from middle- and upper-income households toward businesses.’’

PAR said its research indicated that the tax plan could be $500 million to $650 million short of being revenue neutral.

The Council for a Better Louisiana, which, like PAR, focuses on government policies, also worries about the revenue projections, saying ‘‘if they (taxes) don’t bring in as much revenue as expected, that could create a self-inflicted budget crisis that would be hard to repair.’’ It called for some kind of ‘‘insurance policy’’ if the tax swap does not bring in as much money as the current tax system.

The Times-Picayune of New Orleans in an editorial on Saturday called on the governor to kill his plan, saying the tax swap ‘‘makes no sense’’ and contending that it would be a burden to families and harmful to the economy.

The Jindal administration has been quick to answer such criticism, often firing off counter memos hours after opposing views have been expressed.

Tim Barfield, the governor’s point man on the tax reform, said some of the criticism was based on bad information supplied by the Louisiana Budget Project. He said all income brackets will pay less in increased sales taxes than they do in current income tax.

Another memo said the Times-Picayune’s editorial defended the status quo and that the elimination of the income tax will spur billions of dollars back in Louisiana’s economy.

Meanwhile, the governor has launched a tour to promote the plan. He’ll be in Lake Charles on April 1 to pitch it to a meeting of The Chamber/Southwest Louisiana.

While the opposition grows to the tax swap proposal, the governor is fighting back and campaigning for the overhaul. The battle will likely become fiercer with state lawmakers ultimately playing the role of arbiters.

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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, Jim Beam, Crystal Stevenson and Donna Price.

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