State treasurer calls for election on tax reforms - FOX 8 WVUE New Orleans News, Weather, Sports, Social

State treasurer calls for election on tax reforms

Louisiana's state treasurer thinks voters should get to decide on the governor's new tax proposals. But some say the governor's proposal may be too complicated for a ballot.

Governor Bobby Jindal has proposed eliminating income and corporate taxes, and raising sales taxes to a rate that would be the highest in the country.  It is a dramatic shift in tax policy that some like, some don't.  And one state official says it should be left for voters to decide.

The governor's plan got more expensive this week.  He raised his original sales tax plan from 5.88 percent to 6.25 percent, after the Public Affairs Research council found that the plan would bring in $650 million less than the administration first predicted.

Now state treasurer John Kennedy is calling for the Jindal administration to share all its data, and then let the people decide.

Kennedy said, "At the end of the day, on something this substantial and dramatic, you need to let folks vote."

The tax plan isn't fully evolved right now, with many lawmakers unsure about what it might include, and they worry that when it comes out voters might be even more confused.

"This evolving plan the governor's put out doesn't make enough sense to put on a ballot," said Senator J.P. Morrell.  "I don't even know how you would fit this proposal on the two pages for a ballot."

If the plan goes through, New Orleans would have the highest sales tax in the country, and the visitor industry worries how that would impact local tourism.

The governor says his plan deserves a chance.  "60 percent of new jobs have been created in nine states without income taxes," Jindal said.

And he's promising rebates for the poor, who would be most affected by the higher sales tax.

Kennedy says the governor's rebate program will create a huge new entitlement program, with a large segment of the state's population getting rebate checks every month.

One sociologist we spoke with said it's still a regressive tax, because rebates are often cumbersome and don't work.

The debate over tax reform raged Friday as lawmakers filed dozens of bills in advance of a legislative session that starts in just 10 days.  

For instance, Senator Morrell wants the City of New Orleans to make some changes to a proposal to revamp NOPD details.  He's asking that a five percent surcharge on all details go not to the city but to police pensions.

Morrell said, "You're taxing these guys an extra five dollars off their salary and I'm supplementing your pay while you're on the clock.  If you're going to make this part of the scope of their job, then this should be treated as part of the scope of their job, to take it off and make it part of the retirement. And that's fair."

"The city wants to be the employer, but they don't want to give the responsibilities of the employer, and that's to pay at the rate they're entitled and to pay the benefits as if they are employed by the city," said Police Association President Michael Glasser.

That's going to be a hot button issue in a department that's desperately trying to reform itself. No comment from the city tonight on that bill.

Other bills just filed by lawmakers include one from Representative Pat Connick (R-Marrero), who wants to allow a check-off on state income tax forms, allowing people to refund a portion of their tax to support the decorative lighting on the Crescent City Connection.

Another measure by Representative Helena Moreno (D-New Orleans) would allow Children's Hospital to move forward with a redevelopment plan for the shuttered New Orleans Adolescent Hospital, without any requirement that it be used for a mental health purpose.

Moreno has also proposed a bill that would eliminate two Juvenile Court judgeships, something which the mayor of New Orleans has also been pushing for.

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