Agenda for spring session taking shape

by Jeremy Alford, LaPolitics

The Edwards Administration is getting behind a new taxable gross receipts approach in concert with an elimination of the corporate and franchise taxes.

Gov. John Bel Edwards met with members of the legislative leadership last week and hinted that his administration is moving away from a big push on the individual income tax.

Instead, the Edwards Administration is getting behind a new taxable gross receipts approach in concert with an elimination of the corporate and franchise taxes.

That far-reaching change — replacing a corporate tax on profit with one that targets sales — is expected to be the centerpiece of the governor’s regular session plan when lawmakers convene on April 10.

The blueprint was expected to be rolled out on Monday before the Baton Rouge Press Club.

However, the plan’s architects need just one more week of work for the final touches. That relocates the official debut of the plan to next Monday, March 27.

Edwards has also started meeting with rank-and-file lawmakers by delegation and will continue to travel the state in the coming days to visit with his former legislative colleagues on their respective turfs.

Meanwhile, the House Republican Delegation, which will undoubtedly set the pace for the regular session, met in Alexandria on Thursday. The meetings were held to determine what the conservative agenda will look like.

For now, business and industry is busy investigating the idea of taxable gross receipts.

The working model is based on what Ohio has in place — there’s a commercial activity tax there, for those with taxable gross receipts, that gets paid for the privilege of doing business in the state.

Regardless of how a business is organized, the system hits most in the retail, wholesale, service and manufacturing sectors. Businesses with less than $150,000 in taxable gross receipts are exempt in Ohio.

Lobbyists and lawmaker suspect other parts of the plan are coming together quickly as well.

There’s a lot of talk about giving municipalities and parishes greater flexibility to raise revenue.

Some are urging the governor to consider allowing the additional penny sales tax to fall off in 2018, as scheduled, and then create a mechanism that permits local governments to continue charging it, should they choose to do so. But where that concept goes from here is not certain.

Democrats are likewise rallying behind a plan that would make permanent the temporary suspension of certain sales tax exemptions that were enacted last year.

The administration is said to be a part of the talks involving this proposal, which signals another big fight ahead for the business lobby.

Other ideas being explored by the Edwards administration include a new policy that would force the Legislature to spend slightly less in its annual budgets than what revenue is forecasted to arrive in any given fiscal year.

Modifications to the state’s movie tax credit program are on tap as well, as are a number of other fiscal proposals.