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State tax break study panel recommends more oversight

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BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) - Lawmakers who spent months reviewing Louisiana's long list of tax breaks issued their final report Tuesday, recommending more oversight of current credits, exemptions and rebates and more detailed study before passing new ones.

The Revenue Study Commission didn't recommend getting rid of any specific tax breaks.

Instead, the 14-member panel provided two lists for possible legislative action: one of underused or expired tax breaks and the second of tax breaks where questions were raised by a commission member about a program's value.

The commission, packed with legislative leaders, urged the revenue department to upgrade its computer system to more accurately track the financial impact of tax breaks.

It also suggested lawmakers consider expiration dates for tax breaks and caps on the amount of some tax breaks to allow for more certainty about how much money they'll siphon from the state treasury.

Also suggested was for the Legislature to consider buying new economic modeling software to do more in-depth research of what proposed tax breaks might cost the state.

Lawmakers can consider the ideas in the legislative session that begins April 8.

During the same session, Gov. Bobby Jindal is proposing a sweeping rewrite of the tax code, to get rid of the state's income taxes and replace them with higher and expanded sales taxes, fewer tax breaks and other changes. Jindal hasn't yet offered his specific tax package.

Rep. Joel Robideaux, R-Lafayette, chairman of the Revenue Study Commission, said the panel's review will be valuable to lawmakers as they debate Jindal's tax proposals.

The Public Affairs Research Council, a nonpartisan state government watchdog organization, praised the work of the study commission, saying it raised public and legislative awareness of the tax breaks.

"The commission's report appropriately calls for higher standards of cost-benefit analysis and a new culture of accountability in our evaluation of these programs, old and new," PAR President Robert Travis Scott said in a statement.



The full report is available online at 

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