April 24, 2017 09:14 AM
Photo by Robin May

The House Appropriations Committee convened Monday morning amid reports that leaders of the House Republican Caucus had decided on a path forward on the budget.

The Appropriations Committee convened at 9 a.m. First up on the agenda was a report from the Revenue Estimating Conference on projected state revenues for the next fiscal year which begins on July 1.

Committee chairman Cameron Henry of Metairie was quoted over the weekend as saying that he wants the budget to be based on projected revenues for the next fiscal year, not funding levels contained in the budget enacted at the start of the current fiscal year. The current year budget has been cut due to revenue not meeting projections.

Louisiana budgets have experienced revenue shortfalls in nine of the past 10 fiscal years, dating back to the first year of the Bobby Jindal administration.

Henry says he believes using the Revenue Estimating Conference projections would be a more realistic approach to the budget making process than using budgets from the prior year, which have already been the subject of revisions.

Many House Republicans question budget shortfall figures used by the Edwards administration. Gov. John Bel Edwards is urging reform of the state's tax structure to stabilize and enhance the state's finances. That struggle has characterized the tug-of-war between the administration and the House, which emerged as an outpost of fiscal conservatism during the second term of the Jindal administration.

The House Ways and Means Committee convened Monday to begin dealing with tax proposals, including Edwards' Corporate Activities Tax embodied in Rep. Sam Jones' HB628. The bill is given little chance of winning approval owing in part to its complexity and the overall opposition of the House majority.

Perhaps sensing that, Jones has also authored HB563, which would impose a minimum corporate income tax.

Jones is also the author of HB666, which would create a state margins tax on corporations and eliminate the corporate income tax. The Louisiana Department of Revenue's Tax Exemption Budget shows that a significant change in the state's tax base over the past decade has been the large increase in the percentage of corporate income tax revenue that has been exempted from collection.

The committee will also consider two tax measures by Rep. Kenny Havard. HB647 would create the Louisiana Petroleum Refinery Business Tax. HB648 would create the Louisiana Business Tax. Neither bill is likely to pass.

The work of the two committees is seen as preliminary skirmishes leading to the formal unveiling of the Republican budget ideas promised for May 1. With Republican options on the table, the battle of the budget will formally be on.

You can watch the live stream of the committees and the full chambers when they meet by clicking here.

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