State Senate President John Alario said Tuesday that he will make a last-ditch effort on Wednesday to raise $88 million more to help fill the budget gap identified by Gov. John Bel Edwards.
Alario, R-Westwego, told several reporters that he hopes to revive an individual income tax measure defeated by the House on Sunday by attaching it to a bill that will be before the Senate.
“The 55 votes are staying strong,” Barras, R-New Iberia, said in an interview. “I haven’t heard of any waverers at this point.”
Through his maneuver, Alario hopes to add $88 million to the $284 million that the Legislature appears likely to approve before the second special session adjourns Thursday. Either the $284 million or the $372 million would be far short of the $600 million sought by Edwards.
“That’s the last chance to raise any significant amount of money,” Alario told reporters. “Hopefully, that will get us closer to funding TOPS and some of our other needs.”
His gambit is one of the few unsettled issues before the Legislature adjourns.
The House and the Senate must also pass the supplemental version of the budget, House Bill 69, which allows for the additional spending from the taxes raised during the second special session. That’s $284 million now or another $88 million if Alario has his way.
The Senate Finance Committee was expected to approve the Senate’s first draft of HB69 on Tuesday afternoon, but senators instead huddled around spreadsheets behind locked doors for several hours before the committee chairman, Eric LaFleur, D-Ville Platte, explained to confused onlookers that the panel would not formally meet after all but would instead reconvene Wednesday morning.
In an interview Tuesday night, LaFleur said the committee was stymied over an effort to shift $19 million away from K-12 schools to the state’s colleges and universities. Some committee members are also trying to find $9 million to fully fund two private prisons that are in Allen and Winn parishes.
The effort to shift the money prompted a Tuesday night appeal to K-12 educators from Scott Richard, executive director of the Louisiana School Board Association, that they contact the committee members immediately via email to maintain their funding.
The two chambers will then have until midnight Thursday to approve a final version agreed to by both the House and the Senate.
“I think it would be a pretty soft landing, actually, barring any surprises,” said Barras. “We have three or four bills that are in play.”
To be sure, the first special session ended in March with a flurry of last-minute, chaotic tax increases, and the regular session ended in early June with the House in an uproar after failing to pass the construction budget, the second most important bill.
The measure eyed that Alario hopes to pass Wednesday would no longer allow taxpayers to deduct their previous year’s state and local tax payments on the current year’s state tax return.
Alario hopes to attach the language from the bill to House Bill 50, which currently would raise $13 million by trimming the capital gains tax deduction.
Under his plan, the Senate would attach HB38’s language to HB50, have it pass the Senate and then send the amended version of the bill to the House for approval.
Alario said supporters of the maneuver are trying to find the 53 votes to win passage of the amended version of HB50 — which would presumably raise $101 million.
Democrats and a handful of Republicans supplied all of the 47 yes votes for HB38, sponsored by state Rep. Malinda White, D-Bogalusa. It was a stripped-down version of a bill that sought to eliminate about half of the excess itemized deductions from federal taxes that taxpayers get on their state taxes.
The Senate on Tuesday approved one significant tax bill, House Bill 27, which aims to address a Louisiana Supreme Court ruling that threatens to allow manufacturing companies to avoid millions of dollars in taxes to the state and to parish governments. With the Senate’s 31-7 vote, the measure now goes to the governor for his certain signature. The Louisiana Chemical Association, the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry and other business trade groups opposed the measure.
Elizabeth Crisp, of The Advocate Capitol news bureau, contributed to this report. Follow Tyler Bridges on Twitter, @TegBridges. For more coverage of government and politics, follow our Politics Blog at http://blogs.theadvocate.com/politicsblog/.