Chamber: Don’t raise taxes during Special Session

Published 12:03 am Saturday, June 18, 2016

The River Region Chamber of Commerce sincerely requests the State Legislature during this Second Special Session says NO to new taxes.

Our reasons for this position are summarized as follows:

• Officials do not know if the state needs more revenue yet. The state is only now beginning to collect the taxes raised from the first special session and the 2015 income tax increases on employers. Official state economists have publicly noted the state will not know the amount raised (or the amount of the deficit if any) until July or August at the earliest.

• The economy is in a recession. These same economists have bemoaned the job losses happening across the state in every industry sector, noting our economy is not just stalled but is “contracting.” Louisiana lost more than 16,000 jobs in the last year.

• The state budget is substantially larger than last year. The state budget will be around $28 billion — more than $2 billion greater than last year. Much of this is new federal funding related to Medicaid expansion, but state revenues and spending are up, as well.

• No attempt has been made at alternatives to fund state government other than raising revenue. The governor’s stated goal is to support government entirely at this new higher level with no budget reductions for Fiscal Year 2017. There are no plans for reforming costly programs, such as corrections, retirement or Medicaid.

• Comprehensive tax reform looms in 2017. The Legislature unanimously tasked the HCR11 Task Force with offering long-term budget and tax reforms with recommendations due Sept. 1, 2016.

The 2017 fiscal session provides an opportunity to reform an overly complicated tax code and make structural changes so desperately needed to prioritize spending better. The Task Force should be allowed to do its work, and we should focus on getting it right in 2017.

Henry Friloux

Public Policy Chairman

River Region Chamber of Commerce