Update, 2 p.m.:
Just when it looked like the House was resistant to passing any more tax changes, lawmakers there agreed to two bills tweaking property tax breaks given to businesses.
The two bills won quick passage Monday afternoon. They would raise an estimated $70 million for next year’s budget. Both go back to the Senate for consideration of House changes.
They are likely the last proposals that could win final passage in the special session to help lessen budget cuts.
One proposal, approved 78-21, would place new limits on a tax credit businesses get for paying property taxes on their inventory — if those companies also get an exemption from paying local property taxes on their facilities.
The other proposal, backed 78-18, would rework the inventory tax credit to lessen its cost.
A budget bill to spend the $214 million in taxes lawmakers have raised so far in the special session started advancing Monday in the Louisiana House, with the TOPS college tuition program and the state’s safety-net hospitals slated to get more than half the revenue.
Also in line for a slice of the funding are college campuses, the LSU medical schools, K-12 public and private schools, the voucher program, prisons and a judicial program that provides court-appointed advocates for children.
However, even with the added money in the $26 billion state operating budget for the financial year that begins July 1, cuts still would fall across education, health, public safety and a wide array of government programs.
The proposal backed in an 18-4 vote by the Appropriations Committee would give TOPS one-third of the new money, $67 million. Students who receive TOPS awards would get 70 percent of their tuition costs covered.
The safety-net hospitals would receive nearly $51 million, the amount sought by Gov. John Bel Edwards’ administration — but less than the hospital operators want.
The full House is expected to debate the budget proposal Monday afternoon.
“I expect a lot of amendments to move things around,” Appropriations Chairman Cameron Henry, R-Metairie, said of the upcoming debate.
The four votes against the measure came from Democrats who have unsuccessfully pushed for more taxes to lessen cuts.
Edwards, a Democrat, wanted lawmakers meeting in an 18-day special session to agree to tax changes that would raise $600 million for next year’s budget. Senate leaders were seeking $450 million. Republicans, particularly in the House, have blocked anything above the estimated $214 million already passed so far.
But two bills aimed at reducing property tax breaks to businesses, estimated to raise more than $70 million next year, remained viable in the special session’s final days.
The House Ways and Means Committee approved both measures Monday with ease, suggesting the proposals — already approved by the Senate — could gain final passage. They move next to the full House for consideration.
The bills target the inventory tax credit, which refunds businesses for paying local property taxes on their inventory. Because the tax credit is refundable, the state often pays out more than the taxes a business owes, writing a check to the company.
One proposal by Sen. Rick Ward, R-Port Allen, would place new limits on the inventory tax credit for businesses that also get an exemption from paying local property taxes on their facilities. Those businesses wouldn’t be able to get a rebate check, but instead would only be able to apply the inventory tax credit to their actual tax liabilities.
The change, estimated to save the state about $60 million in tax break spending, would affect large manufacturers, like chemical plants. The House committee agreed to the proposal without objection after a rewrite lessened opposition from leading business lobbyists.
The other proposal by Sen. J.P. Morrell, D-New Orleans, would rework the inventory tax credit in a way that favors small businesses, but also lessens its cost to the state. The committee voted 17-1 to advance the bill to the House floor.
The session must end by Thursday.
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