Tax reform is going to be a difficult issue to tackle when the session begins Monday.
A constitutional convention will likely be the only way a tax reform bill would pass into law in Louisiana, Rep. Gene Reynolds, District 36, said.
“If we do nothing, it would go into the next session,” he said, “and that’s when the penny sales tax rolls off. That would immediately put us $900 million in the hole, in addition to some other things that could push it up to $1.3 billion.”
Much of the issue with tax reform is voting along party lines; however, he emphasized that any tax reform proposals would have to make its way out of the appropriations and ways and means committees.
“Most of the tax reform votes would need 70, and I just don’t think all these measures being proposed can get those 70 votes, unless some things change,” he said. “As of right now, the week before the session, it would be very difficult for me to say, ‘Yes, we have 70 votes,” because I don’t believe we do. It may get clearer once we get down there and discuss what to do. I’m not saying it’s impossible, just not likely.”
In a rare moment of public frustration, Reynolds took to Facebook to share his aggravation regarding the upcoming session, saying Gov. John Bel Edwards could only propose a budget, reforms and possibly a veto at the end of the session.
“I had enough of it and said, ‘We couldn’t pass a dog collar bill,’” he said. “For the past eight years, we have not had 53 votes. That means we couldn’t pass anything by ourselves. For the past eight years, we’ve had to have Republican approval – at least some.”
The hottest tax issue is the proposal by Edwards to impose a .35 percent tax on businesses’ “gross receipts” above $1.5 million.
“It’s something they had in Ohio, where you take the gross receipts of a business,” he said. “That’s not their profit, but their gross receipts, and you take a certain tax off of that. I don’t think that has a chance to pass. I’ve had several people say they don’t like it. In it’s current form, I don’t think it could pass.”
Again, Reynolds explained the process by which a bill has to travel before making it to the governor’s desk. It starts in the Appropriations committee, with 18 Republicans and seven Democrats. If any proposal makes it out of Appropriations, then it has to go to the Ways and Means committee before it ever goes to the House floor.
“The governor can suggest, but that’s all he can do,” he said. “When it comes right down to it, the power to change or not change comes down to two committees in the House of Representatives. Two people, Cameron Henry and Neil Abramson, and the Speaker of the House – those three people and those two committees hold the power to do whatever is done or not done.”
He said he hopes to make progress with tax reform, because the state needs some kind of meaningful reform to regulate Louisiana’s budget. He believes they will get out of session with a balanced budget, but not with any tax reform.
“I hope I can go on Facebook after all this is said and done, and say, ‘Guys, I was wrong, I read the whole situation wrong,’” he said. “I hope I can say, ‘Cooler heads have prevailed and we’re actually going to make progress.’ I hope that’s what I have to do, but I don’t see it.”