GOP chairman of key legislative committee says tax hikes will face opposition

GOP chairman of key legislative committee says tax hikes will face opposition
Published: Feb. 2, 2016 at 11:08 PM CST|Updated: Feb. 2, 2016 at 11:38 PM CST
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NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - A state lawmaker from Metairie who now chairs a powerful legislative committee says Gov. John Bel Edwards can expect push-back on his tax hike proposals.

In a matter of days, the new governor must unveil his first budget since taking office, despite the state having an almost $2 billion shortfall for the new fiscal year and a $750 deficit for the current fiscal year which ends on June 30.

"I think revenue raisers to start off with are probably going to be a little difficult. I think members want to see cuts first," said Rep. Cameron Henry, R-Metairie, recently named chairman of the House Appropriations Committee.

"It's less about GOP and Republican and Democrat and has more focus on just plain common sense. I think if we can look at through those glasses, instead of a political lens, I think we'll all be better off," he said.

The committee will have a lot to say about legislation authorizing the state's annual spending.

"Now that I have the opportunity for my voice to be heard a little bit louder, I'm going to make sure that we don't spend more than we make, that's just common sense," Henry said.

"What I think really needs to happen is the administration needs to say, look, we cannot cut our way out of this problem, but what we can do is we can assure you that we're going to exercise good fiscal management and we're going to hold the line on a lot of expenses, and a lot of things if the legislature does agree to raise revenue that we'll behave responsibly on the spending side," said Robert Travis Scott, president of the Public Affairs Research Council.

Even though higher education officials have said state-funded colleges and universities cannot bear any more budget cuts, some in the legislature think there may be money to save in terms of higher education.

"Though higher ed general fund dollars have been cut a little bit. They've matched those with self-generated tuition increases and some fees, so higher ed, we're going to look at higher ed as well to see what their cash position is, as well and then just general state government," Henry said.

But Scott warned that looking to higher education for a wealth of cuts for the current fiscal year would be misguided.

"You just can't save that much money in higher ed in the middle of a fiscal year, this late in the fiscal year, and this late in the academic year," Scott said.

And given the two budget crises, few will rule out tough options.

"Everything's on the table, so layoffs are there, as well," Henry said.

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