House lawmakers moved ahead Monday with the outlines of a bipartisan budget compromise while sidelining Gov. Bobby Jindal, who opposes the negotiation framework because it would raise new dollars for state spending.
BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) - House lawmakers moved ahead Monday with the outlines of a bipartisan budget compromise while sidelining Gov. Bobby Jindal, who opposes the negotiation framework because it would raise new dollars for state spending.
The House Ways and Means Committee advanced eight proposals to limit the tax breaks doled out by the state, as a way to fill budget holes as part of attempts to broker a deal between House Republicans and Democrats.
A bloc of conservative Republicans, nicknamed the "fiscal hawks," and Democrats are working on a compromise that would include a mix of spending cuts and new money raised by shrinking the tax break programs. It also would include structural changes to the way the budget is crafted each year.
Jindal hasn't been included in the negotiations.
"There's things about the budget discussion that give everybody heartburn," said Rep. Joel Robideaux, R-Lafayette, chairman of the Ways and Means committee. "If you want to make some effective changes, there've got to be elements that not everybody likes."
The deal would replace patchwork financing proposed by Jindal and would include dollars generated by cutting tax breaks, despite the Republican governor's threats that he would veto changes that eliminate or lessen tax breaks because he considers that a tax hike.
Details of the compromise began circulating Monday evening, after lawmakers crafted a final outline for consideration in advance of Thursday's House floor debate on the 2013-14 budget.
Among the pieces of the package is an across-the-board, 15-percent cut to many of the state's tax break programs, to generate about $329 million for spending in the fiscal year that begins July 1 and thereafter.
Tax incentive programs for the film industry, historic building rehabilitation, quality jobs, solar energy systems, child-care facilities and manufacturing machinery and equipment would be among those facing reductions.
Cuts would hit out-of-state travel, office supplies and contracts. Vacant positions wouldn't be filled or funded. Items that Jindal proposed for increased or new spending would be eliminated. The reductions would strip $106 million in spending plans proposed by Jindal.
The plan would take $270 million of the piecemeal funding pushed by Jindal - money from property sales, legal settlements and other one-time arrangements - and spend it on debt payments, construction projects, coastal restoration work and other non-recurring items.
Jindal's proposal to take $100 million from New Orleans' convention center to pay for ongoing state operating expenses would be scrapped.
Jindal blasted the negotiations as a secretive, back-door attempt to raise taxes on Louisiana businesses and residents.
"This process is wrong. It shouldn't be rushed. It shouldn't be done in secret," Jindal said, surrounded by lobbyists for the farm bureau, film industry, forestry association and chemical plants who are concerned they would lose existing tax breaks.
The governor's top tax and economic development leaders sought to delay the tax plans Monday, but found little support on the Ways and Means Committee, which overwhelmingly agreed to advance the bills to revamp tax breaks.
Jindal's economic development secretary, Stephen Moret, said the tax break changes would harm efforts to attract businesses and could cost the state lost jobs.
Tim Barfield, the governor's point man on tax issues, said the Jindal administration hadn't been told about the plans being discussed and worried about the implications of the tax break changes.
"We have grave concerns about what will be done to this bill on the floor, whether the public and stakeholders will have the opportunity to understand exactly what's being done, how it will impact their families, their businesses and everything else," Barfield told the committee.
Rep. Robert Johnson, D-Marksville, cited complaints by legislators that the administration hasn't included them in decisions about the federal health overhaul and in the privatization of the state's LSU-run hospitals.
"You said you felt out of the loop? Now you know how we feel ... Welcome," Johnson said.
The Ways and Means Committee advanced placeholder bills, reporting them in a procedural move declaring the committee finds the measures "unfavorable" but still sending them to the House. They would need to be restructured to match the compromise negotiated.