The Louisiana Legislature is one step closer to repealing a tax credit scheme that it reluctantly passed last year to prevent the governor from vetoing tax measures that were used to cobble together the budget.
The Louisiana House on Thursday overwhelmingly voted to kill the Student Assessment for a Valuable Education Act. The effort to repeal the SAVE Act now heads to the Senate.
Rep. Chris Broadwater, R-Hammond, sponsored the original SAVE Act a little over nine months ago and now he’s pushing for lawmakers to end it.
“To be clear, the SAVE Act was everything you heard it was,” he told the House on Thursday. “It was accounting gimmicks.”
On paper, SAVE represented a phantom fee that would be imposed on college students — but never seen by them nor paid by them — balanced out by an equally ambiguous tax credit.
“It was a credit that no one received, no one paid and didn’t benefit anyone,” Broadwater said.
Broadwater said he was embarrassed to back SAVE but he did so to prevent then-Gov. Bobby Jindal from vetoing several revenue-raising bills. Jindal, a Republican who — at the time — was positioning himself for a run for president, had signed a “no tax” pledge with the Americans for Tax Reform. SAVE was seen as a way to even out any tax hikes and prevent drastic cuts to higher education funding.
“For me, it served its purpose,” Broadwater said. “I knew that if we did not pass it, then the revenue measures we passed would be vetoed by the governor.”
Gov. John Bel Edwards, a Democrat who was sworn into office on Jan. 11, supports the repeal effort. He told The Advocate last week that he saw the ghost credit as a “preposterous scheme.”
“This is another political trick by the Bobby Jindal administration,” Edwards said.
Broadwater joked that the repeal bill shows how he feels about the original legislation. His second co-sponsor is Rep. Rob Shadoin, R-Ruston. Broadwater noted that their initials together made it the “B.S.” bill. He also noted that the measure is labeled “House Bill No. 2.”
“It was a bill that had no practical effect in law,” Broadwater said.
But some legislators raised issue with the Legislature’s willingness to go along with the scheme to satisfy Jindal’s wishes.
“Fifty-eight people enabled this type of behavior,” said Rep. Sam Jones, D-Franklin. “We cannot afford to do that anymore.”
Jones said he’s glad the House is embracing independence — the Republican-controlled chamber snubbed Edwards’ pick for House Speaker, when governors in Louisiana have traditionally gotten their way with leadership.
“It’s just seven years too late,” he said. “We could have used this seven years ago.”
Broadwater said he sees SAVE’s repeal as symbolic of the Legislature attempting to do what’s right. It’s the first bill that the House has passed in the special legislative session that started Sunday.
“Accepting responsibility, making right decisions and being responsible enough to stand up and face the music is never easy but it is right,” Broadwater said. “Hopefully, this can be a lesson for all of us.”