Facing budget woes 'bigger than our state has ever seen,' Gov. John Bel Edwards proposes tax hikes, other options _lowres

Secretary of Revenue Kimberly Robinson

Revenue Secretary Kimberly Robinson has set out on a mission of sorts to educate people about the state's taxes and its budget.

Robinson, who served as co-chair of a recent blue ribbon panel that was tasked with trying to sort out the state's finances, has scheduled meetings with various interest groups to promote the task force's recommendations that will go on to the Louisiana Legislature when it begins its 2017 session in April.

"All voices need to be at the table and be heard," she told the Press Club of Baton Rouge on Monday.

It's a somewhat unusual role for the head of the state's tax-collecting arm, but Louisiana has been locked in a steady cycle of budget deficits in recent years and the task force's plan represents the first major chance at overhauling the state's revenue system.

Already she has met with the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry, the most influential group promoting business interests in the state, as well as the Louisiana Chemical Association and regional economic development groups.

"It is a constant discussion," Robinson said of the state's upcoming tax overhaul attempt.

She said she would like to see the state focus on creating a system that is fair, simple, competitive with other states and offers long-term stability.

"We want every taxpayer to believe that they are being treated fairly," she said.

Robinson said that the state should move toward a "three-legged stool" approach to propping up the budget, with about a third of revenues coming from sales tax collections, a third coming from personal income tax and the other third coming from other taxes.

Currently, the state relies on about 36 percent of its funding for services from the sales tax and 25 percent from personal income taxes.

"You have to balance out your reliance on one revenue source versus the other," she said.

The task force has recommended lowering the state's 5-cent sales tax on most purchases to four and broadening the items and services to which it is applied.

"I think that's the most important recommendation that we are making," she said.

The task force also has suggested eliminating the federal income tax deduction and lowering rates.

"Everyone will get to enjoy a tax break of some sort," she said.

On the budget side, Robinson said that the task force wants for the state Legislature to consider statutory dedications that lock up the budget, leaving little wiggle room when cuts have to be made.

The task force has also encouraged government heads to look for new ways to be more efficient.

"This is not a silver bullet," she said. "There's not an efficiency that can be created and help us with a $2 billion deficit."

Follow Elizabeth Crisp on Twitter, @elizabethcrisp.