Major state tax study taking shape

by Jeremy Alford, LaPolitics


As the public conversation about tax incentives grows louder and lawmakers move ever closer to the term-ending fiscal session of 2015, pressure is building for a comprehensive tax study being overseen by Louisiana State University and partly underwritten by the state.

Headed up by Dr. Jim Richardson, an economist from the flagship university, the study will offer a thorough review of Louisiana’s tax structure and is already well underway.

“Right now we plan to put out a summary of recommendations in early March,” Ricahrdson told LaPolitics.

House Speaker Chuck Kleckley, R-Lake Charles, who spearheaded the effort, said the summarized findings will likely be presented to a joint meeting of the House Ways and Means Committee and the Senate Revenue and Fiscal Affairs Committee.

The full study will be released as a book over the summer, possibly published by LSU Press.

Richardson is staying mum on details, but said it’s likely that the recommendations will include some kind of plan for a common local sales tax base.

“In the end, that has to be the situation. The question is how to get there,” he said.

Internet sales and how to tax them will be an interesting addition as well, he added, and both sides of the ongoing incentives debate are offering their arguments.

“We should maybe put a moratorium on some of these exemptions because they tend to grow so much,” Richardson said.

There were early hints that the study might yield some ideas for the 2015 session, but now those involved believe it will serve as more of a guiding document for the candidates for governor to either plot a special session or plan for 2017, the next regular session during which tax policy can be introduced.

“I would be surprised if any of the suggestions are taken up during the next session,” Richardson said. “For starters the governor would need more time to look at them.”

This will be the second major tax study Richardson has overseen for the state. The first came in 1987, when almost all of the frontline gubernatorial candidates signed on to support its findings. A decade or so later into the 1990s some lawmakers were still using it as a blueprint for updating and changing tax laws.