Increased sales tax, income tax, fees on the table to fix state's budget deficit

Taxes, fees likely going up

METAIRIE, LA (WVUE) - The Louisiana Legislature is facing a financial shortfall that tops $1 billion, and taxpayers and businesses are likely the ones who will bear the financial burden.

"It's tough. This is the most money we've ever been in the hole, and unfortunately, we've kicked the can about as far as it will go," said Republican State Sen. Danny Martiny. "The bottom line is we have a spending problem that we have to curb and a revenue problem that we have to solve."

Lawmakers believe eliminating tax breaks and increasing taxes are obvious fixes to eliminate the budget deficit for this fiscal year and next.

"I'm going to propose some things that people are not going to like. ...I'm going to propose some things that I'm not going to like," said Gov. John Bel Edwards last week when addressing the budget.

With education and healthcare cut to the bone, finding more revenue will likely come from cutting tax exemptions or increasing existing taxes, Martiny said.

"I think you're going to see some scaling back of exemptions. You may see some sales tax increases. You may see part of Stelly coming back, where we change the tax rates," Martiny said.

In 2003, the Stelly Plan decreased sales taxes and made up the lost revenue by implementing new state income tax brackets. Lawmakers repealed the Stelly Plan in 2009, but legislators are considering bringing the program back to bring in revenue.

"You might find yourself in a different income tax bracket without changing income. It's a way to generate more money without changing the actual taxes themselves, just the brackets," FOX 8 political analyst Mike Sherman said.

Lawmakers are also considering increasing the cost for permits and fees. The state wants more agencies like Wildlife and Fisheries to become self-sufficient and not rely on money from the state to operate, meaning residents can expect the price of leisure to go up, as well.

"You can try to look at fishing licenses and hunting licenses and figure out is there any room to raise those a little bit so that the departments that they fund can be more self sufficient. I think that's certainly on the table, all types of fees and permits across the state," Sherman said.

Edwards and other state officials will hold a press conference Tuesday to discuss options for balancing the budget.

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