Jindal scraps tax plan, wants income tax removed

Gov. Bobby Jindal addressing the La. Legislature Monday
Gov. Bobby Jindal addressing the La. Legislature Monday

Baton Rouge, La. -- In the face of near certain defeat, Governor Bobby Jindal removed his proposed tax plan from the legislature's agenda during his opening remarks at the start of the 2013 session.

Opposition from both Democrats and Republicans was strong.  For weeks Jindal had pushed a plan to eliminate the state's personal and corporate income taxes and in return raise the state's sales tax to over 6 percent.  But Jindal conceded before House and Senate members that he had a difficult time convincing voters around the state and lawmakers that his plan was the right move.

"The single biggest most important step we can take to make Louisiana a better state for our jobs and our families is to get rid of the income tax," Jindal said.

But Jindal did not fold his tent completely; instead he has placed the ball in lawmakers' court.

"I’m going to do something that politicians don’t normally do. I’ve heard those comments; we’re going to adjust. I’m telling you today that we’re going to park our tax plan, we’re going to pull that plan... Even as we park our plan I’m calling on you -- let’s work together, let’s pass a bill this session. Let’s get rid of the income tax once and for all this session," said Jindal to applause. 

Many lawmakers were stunned.

"Very surprised, not happy, the governor basically punted to the legislature, he pulled his tax plan.  I think he saw there was fierce opposition on both sides of the aisle, Republican and Democratic, and so he just basically punted to the legislature.  We are still under no obligation to do that," said State Rep. Austin Badon, D-New Orleans.

"I think it takes a big man to step back and say the direction I’m trying to go is not the right one.  He tried his best to convince the public that his program was balanced and evidently felt he was not successful," commented Senate President John Alario, R-Westwego.

"I think he read the tea leaves on his bill and he [could] see it really didn’t have the votes," said Rep. Wesley Bishop, D-New Orleans.

"Short speech.  I couldn’t decide whether to fair catch the punt or let it bounce," said Republican Senator Danny Martiny of Kenner.

Martiny thinks there is merit to doing away with the income tax under the right circumstances.  "I guess it’s now incumbent upon to repeal the income tax, which I think that everybody would like to do," Martiny stated.


Others are not so sure that scrapping the income tax is a great idea, given the current budget problems.

"That’s not what I’m hearing in my district and that’s not hearing in neighboring districts... No, I don’t believe there’s a consensus across the board, either," said Bishop.


"I don’t necessarily agree that people think that that is the magic bill that’s going to solve all of our difficulties," said House Speaker Pro Tem Walt Leger III.

"If we have the financial wherewithal to phase part or all of the income tax, do it, but I think first we need to get our house in order," said Martiny.

"The governor’s plan to raise the state’s sales tax by two percentage points certainly troubled local tourism officials, and if the legislature were to go in that direction, opposition would still be very strong," according to Rep. Jared Brossett, D-New Orleans.

"Raising sales tax is not something  I’m very comfortable with," said Rep. Cameron Henry, R-Metairie, who is a member of the so-called "fiscal hawks" who maintain Jindal's overall budget proposal is based on shaky math.

"I think it’s time for not only members of the legislature but the general public to understand that when we have these false budgets, or budgets with false money... it’s detrimental to all of us throughout the entire year," Henry continued.

But on the first day of the session, what dominated discussion was Jindal's decision to back away from his own tax plan.

"Send me that bill to get rid of those taxes," Jindal admonished lawmakers.

You can follow the Louisiana State Legislature's work this session at www.legis.la.gov.