State House passes $300 million tax break

By Howell Dennis

CITY EDITOR

By a unanimous vote of 102-0, the Louisiana House of Representatives approved a $300 million tax break Wednesday. The vote drew a round of applause from lawmakers. It was still undecided when taxpayers would begin to feel the relief.

Democrats made an effort to revamp the bill, in an effort to provide tax relief to 793,000 filers that Senate Bill 87 (SB87) excludes. The argued that the SB87 gave benefits to people in higher tax brackets who received a tax break last year.

House speaker Jim Tucker, R-Terrytown, countered that the poor got relief on sales taxes while others got increased income taxed that grew at a rapid pace.

After some jockeying, the legislators accepted the tax break after the failed attempts to make it widespread.

The author of the SB87, Buddy Shaw, R-Shreveport, didn’t make any attempt to mask his delight, walking around the House floor, shaking hands and posing for pictures with lawmakers.

The bill tinkered with the income tax part of the Stelly plan - named for Vic Stelly, the former Lake Charles legislator. The Stelly plan essentially swaped higher state income taxes for lower sales taxes. SB87 gave relief to those whose income taxes increased due to the Stelly plan.

Under SB87, single tax filers who make $95,000 a year would get a break of $500. Married tax filers with a $150,000 combined income would save $1000.

Some Democrats argued against the bill to no avail with some of the having signs on their desks that read “No Taxpayer Left Behind”.

“Something is just wrong with a tax cut that leaves half of the citizens of this state behind,” said State Rep. Sam Jones, D-Franklin.

Tucker countered that the working poor got a tax break when the state government lowered the taxes on groceries and passed an earned income credit.

Exactly when the taxpayers would begin to see the savings remained unclear. Governor Bobby Jindal said taxpayers should start seeing increased paychecks in January.

In order for that to happen, the state revenue department must assist by changing the state withholdings tables, which inform businesses on how much money to withhold from their employees.

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