House committee won't hear Jindal tax repeal
BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — The chairman of the House tax committee said Monday that Gov. Bobby Jindal's push to repeal Louisiana's income taxes won't win passage this session, and his panel deferred all plans to take a vote on the proposals.
Rep. Joel Robideaux, R-Lafayette, said his Ways and Means Committee doesn't intend to debate the bills to repeal the personal and corporate income tax during this session because House members weren't supportive of the measures.
"The governor puts forth bold proposals, and I certainly appreciate that. Some of them make their way through the process and some of them don't. This happens to be a situation where the members of the House said that it was not something they were interested in continuing the debate on. I think it's probably dead for the session," Robideaux said.
The committee decision to "indefinitely defer" the list of tax repeal proposals appeared to remove any real chance for the Republican governor to lodge a victory for his signature legislative agenda item.
"Eliminating income taxes is the single best thing we can do to create jobs in Louisiana. If the Legislature decides not to act, I think it will be a missed opportunity," Jindal said in a statement.
The governor's office didn't say whether Jindal thinks the repeal can be revived this session.
"That's up to the Legislature," Jindal spokesman Sean Lansing said in an email.
Robideaux said lawmakers in the House had several problems with Jindal's proposal.
He said there were concerns about how to offset the billions of dollars in lost income tax revenue and whether it was wise to make such a sweeping change in the middle of ongoing state budget problems. He also said lawmakers said they hadn't received a big outcry from their constituents urging the tax repeal.
Income tax repeal bills also are pending in the Senate, but Robideaux said if senators pushed those bills, he doesn't believe the House would support those either.
"I wasn't going to vote for anything. I don't think they were coming out," said Rep. Eddie Lambert, R-Gonzales, a member of the Ways and Means Committee. "I don't know how much more you can cut" from the budget.
Jindal initially sought to eliminate the individual and business income taxes in January 2014 and replace them with higher sales taxes charged on previously untaxed items, boosted tobacco taxes and the removal of dozens of tax breaks on the books. The governor said the change would improve job creation and economic development.
His tax package ran into strong opposition from religious leaders, the state's leading business organization and lawmakers from both sides of the aisle. Nonpartisan groups said his plan didn't balance and would leave the state with a budget hole, and a recent poll showed the governor's proposal was highly unpopular.
Last week, on the opening day of the regular session, Jindal ditched his tax package and instead told lawmakers he'd support a phased out income tax repeal. He gave them no parameters on how to get there or whether to replace the lost revenue.
MELINDA DESLATTE,Associated Press