Tax proposal partially addressing budget shortfall heads to senate

BATON ROUGE, LA (WVUE) - Lawmakers are one step closer to shoring up the state's multi-million dollar budget gap. The House passed a sales tax proposal, Memorial Day, that would renew part of an expiring one-percent sales tax. Yet, some say it won't be enough.

"I'm optimistic and I'm hopeful we can get this done," said Senator Wesley Bishop (D-New Orleans).

With seven days left in the special session, lawmakers are finally making progress in addressing the state's budget crisis. They passed two measures Monday, one of which would reinstate a third of the expiring sales tax and lessen certain sales tax breaks.

"I'm hopeful we can get more than 400. We need more than 400 million," stressed Bishop.

The figures fall short. There's still a more than $200 million shortfall and Bishop says that just won't do.

"Those measures totally give us $400 million of the $648 million that we actually need," said Bishop. "No one wants the kind of issues that we've talked about over the last two weeks if we don't get the kind of money we need. You're dealing with healthcare, K-12 education, higher education, senior citizens, whatever the case may be. So, we need to solve this problem right now."

Republican Senator Danny Martiny says there is a way the legislature can renew enough of the temporary one-cent tax until next year. Though not ideal, Martiny says he is willing to wait it out.

"At the end of the session, if the choice is kicking the can down the road or letting everything crater and have some devastating effects on a lot of the needy people in this state, I guess I'd have to be for kicking it down the road. Believe me, I don't enjoy doing that but you have to have the cooperation of both houses and the fourth floor in order to deal with the situation," Martiny explained.

Ideally, Martiny says he would like to see a little more than a third of a penny tax.

"I think the half-penny is a solution where we're actually reducing the sales tax by a half-cent. Granted, it's a temporary sales tax and we will just have to make some adjustments," he said.

Bishop says there are other options.

"Conversations I've heard over the last couple of weeks deal with business utilities, it deals with corporate tax, it deals with all other measures. And we can raise revenue in the state of Louisiana if we in the legislature have the will to do it," said Bishop.

The tax proposal now heads to the Senate. This was the second time the House tried for a sales tax bill. The first one failed Friday.