Vote delayed in hopes of passing gas tax hike

<p class="p1">BATON ROUGE — Citing a lack of support, one House lawmaker decided on Wednesday to shelve legislation that would increase the state’s 20-cent gasoline tax until next week.</p><p class="p1">As House lawmakers worked late into the evening, Rep. Steven Carter, R-Baton Rouge, returned House Bill 632 to the calendar until Wednesday, May 31. The measure lacks the votes needed for House approval, but Carter said he wants to continue discussion on the measure.</p><p class="p1">“I know it’s a tough vote; this is just too important,” he said. </p><p class="p1">The measure calls for an additional 17-cent tax on gasoline, diesel fuel and other special fuels. It would generate $269.7 million this year and more than $500 million in the 2018-2019 fiscal year. </p><p class="p1">The levy would be adjusted every four years based on the four-year average of the Consumer Price Index, starting in the 2021 fiscal year.</p><p class="p1">Carter mentioned the backlog of road and bridge projects that could be funded with the tax increase. He also spoke of similar bills introduced during earlier sessions that went nowhere.</p><p class="p1">“This is a great opportunity for us, but if nothing is done, we will kick the can down the road four more years,” Carter said.</p><p class="p1">He mentioned the 2007 collapse of the U.S. 135 Mississippi River bridge in Minneapolis that killed 13 and injured 145. He said he wasn’t trying to revert to “scare tactics” to garner support for the bill, but acknowledged that some roads and bridges in Louisiana are in dire need of repair.</p><p class="p2"><strong>Tax changes</strong></p><p class="p1">Lawmakers voted 83-13 in favor of H.B. 353, by Rep. Julie Stokes, R-Kenner, sending it to the Senate. The measure is a constitutional amendment to enact a flat 3.95 percent flat tax on personal income greater than $12,500 for single filers and $25,000 for joint filers. </p><p class="p1">There would not be a deduction for federal income taxes paid, and the excess itemized deduction would be modified.</p><p class="p1">A companion bill, H.B. 501, was also approved with an 85-13 vote. The measure was amended to include a $1,000 exemption for a taxpayer who is blind, deaf or has an intellectual disability.</p><p class="p1">The deduction would also apply to each dependent allowed, in determining federal income tax liability, who is blind, deaf or intellectually disabled.</p><p class="p1">Rep. Frank Howard, R-Many, was the only Southwest Louisiana lawmaker to oppose both bills.</p>

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