Friday, 26 February 2016 00:08

Louisiana House Republican leader Harris explains sales tax vote

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lagopState Representative Lance Harris (R­Alexandria), Chairman of the House Republican Delegation, released the following:

“Government should always strive to be less intrusive to citizens and business, spend its money efficiently, and deliver its core functions without raising taxes. This has always been and will continue to be the goal of the House Republicans. 

The Governor called the legislature into an "extraordinary" session in mid­ February. The revenue of the current fiscal year, which ends June 30, had fallen nearly $1 billion below projections. Thus, in order to continue government operations, the legislature would need to find areas of waste, cut certain services, and/or raise revenue. 

The House Appropriations Committee has done a tremendous job of questioning the department and agency heads regarding their fiscal state. Every department has revealed areas of possible waste and more efficiency. On the second day of session, the committee cut $60 million from the current year’s budget. Today, the House voted for Rep. Cameron Henry’s (R­Metairie) bill to cut the size and scope of government. It is slated to cut the budget by over $100 million. In total, including programs and departments that will not be funded, the House has cut $346M from this fiscal year’s budget. This amount includes the suggested cuts from the Governor. 

Our Delegation has presented a set of conservative reforms that will permanently change government to the governor — including a lower, flatter tax rate, a more transparent government, and a more sustainable approach to government pensions. These proposals will help put Louisiana on a strong path toward long­term financial solvency, while making our government more citizen­driven. The Governor has agreed to work with us on these issues. 

While we have committed to being better stewards of taxpayer dollars, our Governor and several of our members have reached the conclusion that it will be impossible to close the nearly $1 billion gap on the short timeline we are on without taking such measures as school closures and hospital closures. The penny sales tax was passed by the House with an 18­-month hard cutoff date. Governor Edwards’ original plan did not allow for an end date. 

This is not the measure the House Republicans wanted to see happen; however, we are pleased that the Delegation has succeeded in getting a hard cutoff date. 

The House Republicans remain convinced that Louisiana can emerge from this fiscal crisis with unprecedented reform including budget and tax restructuring, pension reform, transparency enhancement measures, and others. We have also passed a Concurrent Resolutions that will cancel every government contract that can save the state money. We have challenged the Governor and all members of the Legislature to remain committed to these reforms in the regular session. 

As the House Appropriations Committee prepares to hear the budget for FY 2016­17, we urge the public to continue to share their thoughts with us throughout the special session. Join with us in making sure this next budget is fixed and government is permanently reformed for future generations. The public deserves quality service and responsible usage of tax dollars.”

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