Gov. Edwards proposes tax reform

NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - Gov. John Bel Edwards on Monday announced a Christmas gift list that does not include the extension of the fifth penny of the state sales tax.

But for that penny to go away and avoid major cuts to healthcare and education, he needs lawmakers to go along with a tax reform plan that an advisory committee has recommended.

Edwards went before state business leaders in Baton Rouge to propose a tax reform program that would compensate for the loss of $1 billion in sales tax revenue in June of next year.

"But I won't consider is what we've done in the past, governor. We need $300 million and cuts. You figure it - out that's not my plan," said the governor.

Instead, Edwards called for permanent reductions in state tax credits and rebates that sunset at the end of this fiscal year. He is also calling for changes in income tax brackets and a reduction in itemized deductions from 100% to 50%.

"I'm proposing that the legislature adopts  it's plan. I'm not proposing a tax increase. It's revenue neutral," said Edwards.

The governor is now on a tight timetable as he tries to deal with his tax package and a special session.

"I'm cautiously optimistic given everything we've been through," said Barry Erwin with the Council for a Better Louisiana.

Though the governor is indicating he may call a February special session, he said he won't do it unless there's some sort of consensus.

Many legislative leaders have resisted tax reform in the past but the governor says this time is different.

"There's a willingness to get it done and a shared responsibility  and there's no reason why we can't," said Edwards.

The governor says tax reform will erase a big negative and help grow the states economy.

"Having the highest sales tax in the country is not a good idea," said Edwards.

And if all goes well the Governor hopes to change that in the year ahead.

If there's no consensus and the fifth penny of the sales tax is eiliminated next year the Governor says there will be severe cuts to healthcare and Higher education.

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