Local lawmakers discuss Jindal sales tax plan

By By John Guidroz / American Press

It’s an interesting idea, but some Southwest Louisiana lawmakers said Friday that they want to see more details on Gov. Bobby

Jindal’s proposal to get rid of the state’s personal and corporate income taxes before making a decision on it.

The plan, which Jindal announced Thursday, “will put more money back into the pockets of Louisiana families,” will simplify

the state’s tax code, and will attract new businesses. But it would also require some measures to offset the revenue lost

by eliminating those taxes. Some of the ones being considered include raising the state’s 4 percent sales tax and raising

the tax on cigarettes.

House Speaker Chuck Kleckley, R-Lake

Charles, called the plan “very bold and very aggressive,” but said it is

a good plan

“at the end of the day.” He said he wants to make sure the sales

and cigarette taxes are not set too high. Senate President

John Alario, R-Westwego, said a “1.6 percent increase in state

sales tax” was discussed this week during a meeting with the

Jindal administration and legislative leaders, The Advocate

reported Thursday.

“At this point in time, it’s still too early to make a judgment on any of this,” Kleckley said. “It’s something that’s still

in the works.”

A “sales tax increase is on the table,” said Tim Barfield, executive counsel for the state’s Revenue Department. Other options

may include “broadening” the sales tax base and “eliminating some sales tax exemptions,” he said.

Rep. Brett Geymann, R-Moss Bluff, said the proposal has some “interesting components,” but he wants to know how it will work

over the long term.

“The big question is, ‘What’s the end game?’ ” he said. “If (the plan) is revenue neutral, why are we doing this major change?

Is it going to increase the corporations in our state because they are tax exempt?”

Rep. Mike Danahay, D-Sulphur, said the plan looks good “on the surface,” but he is unsure if raising the sales tax will put

more of a strain on low- and middle-class families. Danahay sits on the House Ways and Means Committee, which will review

the plan first once the legislative session begins April 8.

“Whenever a family is buying the essentials, it’s an additional burden when you raise the sales tax,” he said.

Sen. Ronnie Johns, R-Lake Charles, said he can’t take sides on the plan until he gets feedback from his constituents and gives

his own input.

“It may be something good, and it may put us at a competitive edge for other states that don’t have personal income tax,”

he said. “But with us being a border parish, a higher sales tax could have people moving across state lines or cause more

Internet sales to purchase retail goods.”

Kleckley said Jindal has committed to meeting with all lawmakers, and that he wants their input on the proposal.

“He’s very open-minded,” Kleckley said.

Geymann said he remains focused on reforming the state’s budget process. He said a draft plan was recently finished and is

being reviewed by him and other state lawmakers.

“We’re going to argue the case that we should reform the budget before worrying about tax reform,” he said.