Last Modified: Monday, May 06, 2013 9:06 PM
BATON ROUGE — Gov. Bobby Jindal threw cold water on a budget reform effort here Monday, calling it a secret plan to raise taxes.
Earlier, members of the House Ways and Means Committee, during a five-hour hearing, moved some half-dozen bills to the full House that could be used to plug a $490 million hole in Jindal’s proposed $24.7 billion budget. The committee voted to report them unfavorably, keeping the measures alive for future debate.
The governor got legislators, businesses and other interests to attend an afternoon news conference to outline their concerns about the House tax reform effort.
Jindal said the committee has denied the public a chance to be heard on the proposed budget reforms. The bills heard Monday deal with tax propositions and tax exemptions.
The budget reform effort is being orchestrated by a group of conservative Republicans called the “Fiscal Hawks” and some members of the Democratic Party and the Legislative Black Caucus.
The House Appropriations Committee last week stripped $490 million from House Bill 1, the budget spending plan, and wanted to let the state Senate restore the funds. However, 71 members of the House said they wanted to make the budget changes.
Jindal said when the government takes more out of your pocket, that is raising taxes — anyway you size it up.
“We need to grow the private sector economy, not the government,” he said.
The governor said every economic indicator has the state in good position in per capita income, unemployment and industrial growth.
Jindal said he called on the Legislature to open up the process. Some opposed the measures heard in the Ways and Means Committee, but the governor said the public hasn’t had enough time to react.
Dan Borne with the Louisiana Chemical Association, said 65 corporations in the state are operating 100 industrial plants.
“We are on the cusp of a true renaissance in the state,” Borne said. He added that expanding corporations made those decisions based on business incentives that were already in place and they shouldn’t be changed.
State Rep. Julie Stokes, R-Metairie, said increased taxes target businesses and that affects jobs.
Buck Vandersteen, executive director of the Louisiana Forestry Association, said companies depend on certainty. He mentioned Boise’s plan to spend $111 million in DeRidder to update paper making machinery. He said the company could still pull back on those plans.
Rep. Gordon Dove, R-Houma, said tax changes could be critical for companies locating deep water wells.
Others who complained about the tax reform effort included the American Advertising Federation; Stephen Moret, secretary of the state Department of Economic Development; and Tim Barfield, executive counsel for the state Department of Revenue.
Moret said higher taxes will hurt the state’s business image after Louisiana has made record progress in economic development.
Barfield said Gov. Jindal’s tax reform plan that was shelved early in the session gave stakeholders and legislators time to respond to what was being proposed. And he said the goal was to eliminate individual and incorporate income taxes.
“We don’t even know what’s being discussed,” he said of the House reform coalition. “We have to know how everyone will be impacted.”
Jindal said he planned to give the House time to formulate a reform plan, but “the largest tax increase in decades” caused him to change his plans.
“Even members of the committee don’t know what the bills do,” the governor said.
The plan was rushed, is secretive and “the wrong way for the Legislature to do its business.”
“They can hide behind whatever they want, but this is a tax increase,” Jindal said.
Posted By: C. M. Pardue On: 5/7/2013
Title: Budget objections
The objections to the tax reform effort being voiced by the administration and others (i.e., rushed, secretive, not familiar with the content, no input from those affected, etc.) sound like the same objections voiced by educators last year when the administration rammed home the changes in education. The governor didn't object to the process then; why should he object now?