Jindal tax plan is DOA in House
BATON ROUGE — 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.
“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.
House Speaker Chuck Kleckley, a Jindal ally, said it wouldn’t be responsible to move an income tax repeal without a plan for replacing the lost revenue.
“Rep. Robideaux and I have discussed how to proceed with this week’s hearings, and I am in support of his decisions,” Kleckley said in a statement.
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.
To start Monday’s committee meeting, Robideaux read a statement in which he thanked Jindal for starting the debate, talked of his conversations with lawmakers and House leaders and cited policy analysis by nonpartisan groups.
“My preference is that we should indefinitely defer consideration of these bills. This is a difficult, but I believe, necessary action,” he said.
He offered lawmakers sponsoring the tax repeal bills the ability to continue the hearing if they wanted their proposals to receive a vote.
Instead, the three representatives — Republican Reps. Hunter Greene of Baton Rouge, Kirk Talbot of River Ridge and Barry Ivey of Central — each walked to the table and asked to pull his tax repeal bills from consideration.
“Since you’re voluntarily deferring the bill, I just want to make sure that we’re not going to see it again this session?” Rep. Regina Barrow, D-Baton Rouge, asked Talbot.
“Probably not,” Talbot replied.
Ivey, a newly-elected lawmaker, said he was disappointed to shelve his bill. He noted the audience was packed with opponents, but said, “There’s a lot of people for tax reform. They just happen to be working and paying taxes right now, so they couldn’t be here.”
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.
Nonpartisan government watchdog groups and business leaders said the two-month session was too short to come up with a well-conceived plan that doesn’t devastate critical services.
The Council for A Better Louisiana was pleased the repeal likely was dead for the session.
“What concerned us was the timing and the Legislature’s ability to realistically craft a new tax reform policy that would be well-conceived, thorough and understood and supported by taxpayers — all in a matter of a few short weeks. We just didn’t think that was possible given the many complexities,” CABL President Barry Erwin wrote in a statement.
By MELINDA DESLATTE